Spine Poems

I first encountered book spine poems at Stan Carey’s blog, Sentence First. He’s been at it since at least 2010, inspired by artist Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project, which she began back in 1993.

In early 2018, I composed nine book spine poems, built from titles from my poetry collection. I posted them over at my blog (fleeting) every few days during the month of April. National Poetry Month and all that.

In the summer of 2022, I built a five more, this time using books from all over the house, since I was in the process of unpacking them all after moving into our house.


One

The novice insomniac, sleeping
with the dictionary, calling a wolf
a wolf…

My vocabulary did this to me.

Novice Insomniac


Two

Oceanic codes,
appearing in
the middle distance
above the river, tug
the great enigma from
one life to another.

Oceanic Codes


Three

Stealing sugar
from the castle,
playing the black
piano, passing
through broken
hierarchies: the heart

          is strange.

Stealing Sugar


Four

Bedouin of the London
evening, nobody’s
Ezekiel, seeing

things of no country
I know. Things

stirring together
or far away, imaginary
vessels, terrible blooms.

Bedouin


Five

Locusts at the edge of
summer, harping on all day.

Permanent red blood:
tin, straw, ashes.

For breakfast: scrambled
eggs and whiskey.

Locusts


Six

Mermaids in the basement
howl ravishing disunities: these
are not sweet girls.

Mermaids


Seven

Overtime field work,
temporary help:
why aren’t you at work?

Work


Eight

“Spring shade, spring essence.”
Song of the departed stranger.

Music, imitations, illuminations.

To be the poet even in quiet
places: Turtle Island, Flower
Wreath Hill, backroads
to far towns…

Spring Shade


Nine: hay(na)ku

The widening spell
of the
leaves,

my life corrupted
into song.
Pure,

unattainable earth where
now, as
ever,

testimony is music
beginning with
O…

Widening Hay(na)ku


Ten: American Story

born standing up
waking up american
growing up absurd
loitering at the mountains
of madness teaching
a stone to talk
coming home
crazy

American Story #1


Eleven

come dance with me
under the volcano
through the eye
of a needle beyond
the aspen grove

Come Dance with Me


Twelve

In such hard times, this
is how you lose her: linger
awhile under the dome, gathering
the desert in the heart of
the heart of the country.

Meander, spiral, explode
(etc, etc).

Die, my love.

This is How


Thirteen: American Story

Amusing ourselves
to death in the American tree.
Out of our minds together.

And by ourselves
— neither here nor there —
must we mean what we say?

American Story #2


Fourteen: Quiet Hope

Against
the grain
— but beautiful

Against
the day
— reluctantly seeking
the cave, finding them
gone a year
from Monday

Against
forgetting that thin,
wild mercury
sound: quiet hope
in the dark — but

  is it art?

Quiet Hope