Please tell us about your book.
Spine Poems: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse for Book Lovers combines titles for all ages in tiny stories of love, loss, work, play, parenting, politics, pop culture, and home. Over 100 photos are accompanied with relevant quotes, fun facts, and other bookish bits, then organized as if in a bookstore: Art, Biography and Memoir, Cooking, Music, Pop Culture, True Crime, and more.
What is a found poem?
A found poem is one made from––found in––other people’s words, the reordering of existing texts to say something new. It can be traced at least as far back as the 1920s art movements Dadaism and Surrealism, when one of Dada’s founders, Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, wrote directions for composing a poem with words cut from the newspaper and pulled from a hat. You’ve likely seen blackout or whiteout poems created from newspapers or magazines, and I highly recommend the erasure poems made by Kate Baer in her book, I Hope This Finds You Well. A spine poem, also called a cento, is a collage version: the addition of words, rather than their subtraction. Books are stacked so that the titles on their spines become the lines in a poem, read top to bottom.
How did you get the idea for this book?
Of course, I didn’t know all that ^ when I discovered found poetry as a bookseller in Neptune Beach, Florida. One rainy afternoon, after a particularly strong rush of customers and friends at The BookMark, a colleague and I looked around. Books piled everywhere, waiting to be gift-wrapped or mailed or returned to the shelves. Picture books mixed with cookbooks and histories with mysteries, and we laughed as we read the random arrangements. We were punchy, but we’d spotted a game. Not to be outdone by coincidence, we began our own rearrangements. Before we knew it, we’d made verses to the universe and left notes for our pals. Since our constructions appeared almost poem-like, we called them “found verses” and cracked ourselves up. It was fun, it was silly, it was easy, and I was hooked.
My colleagues endured spine poems at every occasion, including the ordering of lunch (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) and a favorite sandwich (I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore). I made a few poems into greeting cards, and I posted some on social media. And though I continued to make spine poems over the years, this book began much later, after a move to North Carolina, when the pandemic prompted a fresh look at my shelves.
What do you hope readers will take from your collection of poems?
Naturally, I hope readers of Spine Poems will enjoy the poems, observations, and fun facts. I hope they see a title or twenty to add to their want-to-read piles. But I especially hope that readers are––and I love to see that it’s happening!––inspired to create better, smarter spine poems of their own.
Even if I must warn: it’s addictive.
Caroline, thank you so much. Happy National Poetry Month!
Thank you, Annette. You too!