4 Steps to Poetry Month Success with Book Spine Poems

Am I a poet in the traditional sense? Nay. My expertise doesn’t stretch much beyond the “roses are red” variety. While I appreciate and am amazed by the poetically-minded, I have trouble pulling the stuff off myself. But book spine poetry is a different story.

The concept is simple – stack books using the titles on the spines to create a poem. The learning curve is low, the results are often awesome – it’s a natural fit for a National Poetry Month program for kids.

Inspired by artist Nina Katchadourian, book spine poems (or “centos”) have been my form of choice to celebrate National Poetry Month for the past two years. I’ve spread the word on my blog, 100 Scope Notes, and gathered the work of others to share.

With April fast approaching, I encourage you to give book spine poetry a shot with your young patrons. Here are my four steps to success:

  1. Check out last year’s book spine poem gallery for inspiration.
  2. In the library, start looking at titles to see what strikes you. Arrange and rearrange in your head. The best part of this type of poetry is that you don’t know where you’ll end up.
  3. Have a pencil and paper with you to write down titles that stand out — you can refer back to them later, and it’s easier than pulling a whole bunch of books.
  4. Don’t be afraid to use the library catalog to look up titles with specific words or phrases that fit.

If you try book spine poetry with kids, snap pictures and send them my way (scopenotes at gmail dot com). I’ll include them in a gallery up at 100 Scope Notes on April 2nd, and add to it throughout the entire month.

So let’s rock National Poetry Month with a poetic form that kids will take to.


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  2. Abby

    Thanks for this post–I recently learned about book spine poetry from our middle school library patrons. This will be a great activity for our next meeting!

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