Book spine poem: Unlocking the language

November 7, 2014

Bookmashing, for the uninitiated, is when you stack books so the titles on their spines form a poem, or a mini-story, etc. It also has the more transparent name book spine poetry. It’s a fun game – and challenge – for word lovers, and a great excuse to browse your bookshelves. You’ll see them in a new light.

I’ve made several bookmashes over the years, and would do them oftener if most of my books weren’t in storage. Usually there’s no special theme, but some have been explicitly linguistic, e.g. Evolution: the difference engine, Forest of symbols, The web of words, Ambient gestures, and Cat and Mouse Semantics. So today I imposed the restriction of only using books from the ‘language’ shelf:

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stan carey book spine poem bookmash - unlocking the language

Unlocking the language

The professor
And the madman
Defining the world,
Shady characters
Unlocking the English language –
Is that a fish
In your ear?

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Thanks to the authors Simon Winchester, Henry Hitchings, Keith Houston, Robert Burchfield, and David Bellos. (I’ll try to be less gender-skewed next time.)

I got the idea originally from artist Nina Katchadourian, and it has spread to public radio and around the web. Last year a British drama group ran a bookmash competition, and now Jump! Mag (an educational magazine for children) is holding one for young readers.

Millie Slavidou, who set up the contest, has put several bookmashes on her Glossologics blog, which I wrote about last year. Seeing the idea featured in Jump! Mag prompted today’s simple effort, and I look forward to seeing any competition entries they make public. New players are always welcome.


Book spine poem: The Name of the World

September 1, 2014

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stan carey book spine poem - bookmash - the name of the world

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The Name of the World

Everybody dies
In search of memory –
The first word, my last breath,
The name of the world,
The world without us.

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One of these, you may have spotted, is a library book, while another appeared in an earlier bookmash and I still haven’t read it. I discussed Buñuel’s book in a recent post on curses and adjectives; Kenneally’s featured some years ago in a brief post on language evolution.

Other than that, I have nothing to add except my customary thanks to the authors: Lawrence Block, Eric Kandel, Christine Kenneally, Luis Buñuel, Denis Johnson, and Alan Weisman; also to Nina Katchadourian.

Older bookmashes and links to other people’s are browsable in my archive of book spine poems. Join in if you like.


Book spine poem: Useless Crazy Heart

June 28, 2014

A new book spine poem. My shelves have been nudging me.

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Useless Crazy Heart

All about love, the devil I know,
Style, solace, the entwining truth,
Conquest of the useless crazy heart,
The pleasure of finding things out.

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stan carey - book spine poem bookmash - useless crazy heart

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Thanks to the authors: bell hooks, Claire Kilroy, Joseph M. Williams, Belinda McKeon, Richard Condon, Peter Temple, Werner Herzog, Thomas Cobb, and Richard Feynman; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.

Want to join in? Do – it’s all sorts of fun. Upload a photo and post a link in the comments, or put it on your own site, etc. If you’d like to see more of these, there are lots in the Sentence first bookmash archive.


Bookmash: Periodic Tales from Hell

May 7, 2014

It’s a while since I’ve made a bookmash, i.e., a book spine poem. Here’s a new one:

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stan carey - bookmash book spine poem - periodic tales from hell

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Periodic Tales from Hell

Periodic
tales from hell:
bad blood,
winterwood,
The night torn
mad with footsteps.
This year it
will be different.

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Thanks to the authors: Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, Lorna Sage, Patrick McCabe, Charles Bukowski, and Maeve Binchy; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.

My bookmash archive has more of these and links to other people’s.


Book spine poem: Antarctica

February 18, 2014

A new book spine poem (aka bookmash):

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Antarctica

Skating to Antarctica,
Desolation island –
A place apart where
The wasteland ends;
Soul on ice into
The silent land
The other side of you.

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stan carey - book spine poem - antarctica

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I planned to include The White South but didn’t find a satisfying spot for it. Thanks to the authors: Jenny Diski, Patrick O’Brian, Dervla Murphy, Theodore Roszak, Eldridge Cleaver, Paul Broks, and Salley Vickers; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.

Many more in the bookmash archive: have a browse, or make your own.


Book spine poem: A Pagan Place

December 7, 2013

A new bookmash. It has been weeks since I made one.

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stan carey - bookmash book spine poetry - a pagan place

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A Pagan Place

The idea of prehistory, a pagan place –
Land of milk and honey, the white goddess;
Cows, pigs, wars and witches,
Women, fire, and dangerous things.

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Again this one is top-heavy with non-fiction – I tend to notice the ratio only after putting them together. See my previous one on language evolution for stats on fiction vs. nonfiction.

Thanks to the authors: Glyn Daniel, Edna O’Brien, Bríd Mahon, Robert Graves, Marvin Harris, and George Lakoff; and to Nina Katchadourian for the idea.

For more like this, see my archive of book spine poems (25 at last count), which includes links to other people’s. If you want to join in the fun, do – send me a photo or put a link in the comments. Remarks about, say, my inconsistent use of the serial comma are also welcome.


Book spine poem: a language evolution special

October 24, 2013

Someone once told me it was harder to make a book spine poem, aka bookmash, from non-fiction titles. I don’t know; I hadn’t really thought about it before, and I’m never conscious of it when constructing them.

But it led me to look at my earlier book spine poems and see what pattern emerged. Fiction/non-fiction ratios (in reverse chronological order) are as follows: 5:5, 7:2, 8:2, 4:4, 2:5, 6:2, 2:4, 4:4, 2:4, 2:4, 2:5, 3:2, 3:4, 4:3, 2:1, 0:4, 1:4, 0:3, 2:2, 4:2, 1:2, 4:4, 7:9.

That’s 75 fiction vs. 81 non-fiction. I was surprised that there were more non-fiction, and that the totals ended up so close. Two are exclusively non-fiction but none contain only fiction. (New challenge!)

I don’t usually set out with a theme in mind, but this time I wanted to make one about language/linguistics, which was always going to skew heavily towards non-fiction: 2:7. Non-fiction surges ahead – for now.

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stan carey - book spine poem - bookmash - evolution the difference engine

Evolution: the difference engine

Words words words ad infinitum –
The power of Babel,
The languages of the world.
Human speech: the articulate mammal enigma,
Evolution: the difference engine.

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Thanks to the authors: Diarmaid Ó Muirithe, Nicholas Ostler, John McWhorter, Kenneth Katzner, Richard Paget, Jean Aitchison, Robert Harris, Carl Zimmer, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling; and to artist Nina Katchadourian.

More in the bookmash archive.


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