Book spine poem: A Quiet Life

Last weekend I read The Long Gaze Back, a wonderful anthology of short stories by Irish women writers, edited by Sinéad Gleeson. I felt the book’s title – borrowed from Maeve Brennan’s novella The Visitor – could work in a book spine poem. So here it is.

[click to enlarge]

stan carey book spine poem a quiet life

A Quiet Life

A quiet life
on Chesil Beach,
loving and giving
bliss, breath, broken
words, the broken shore,
The long gaze back
under Milk Wood.
Johnny, I hardly
knew you.


Thanks to the authors and editors: Beryl Bainbridge, Ian McEwan, Molly Keane, Peter Carey, Tim Winton, Helen Hodgman, Peter Temple, Sinéad Gleeson, Dylan Thomas, and Edna O’Brien.

Today I’m enjoying another Peter Temple novel, Bad Debts, and hope to get to Broken Shore before long. I read Bainbridge’s book last month and was struck by its inclusion of a Chapter 0 – two of them, even.

Bliss is Peter Carey’s first book; I’ve yet to read it, but the film adaptation is an old favourite. Earlier bookmashes featured other books by Edna O’Brien, Peter Temple, and Sinéad Gleeson.

Stacks of books have an intrinsic aesthetic appeal, I find, in the jumbled colours, sizes, typefaces and publishers. But the poems arranged from their titles seldom work out so symmetrically.

34 Responses to Book spine poem: A Quiet Life

  1. angieabk says:

    I love it!! I’ve never before seen a book spine poem. Very unique. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Nice! Ever notice how often blues and greens are used in advertising? Everything from books to medicine to mouthwash. They are soothing colours.

  3. janette says:

    Now I feel driven to re-organize my book pile! Thank you for the most rewarding bit of procrastination I can think of!

  4. Hussein says:

    This is indeed very creative! Never seen a book spine poem ever.

  5. lifeinasinglepicture says:

    Simply love it <3

  6. Love this, can’t wait to get home to the book shelf/book piles!!!

  7. ecosstick says:

    Love this, such a creative idea!

  8. […] saw this fabulous idea just today over on Stan Carey‘s blog: Book spine poems […]

  9. Dalo 2013 says:

    Very creative ~ love this idea and also the poem.

  10. […] I sent him to my friend Becky, who found Stan’s book spine poem. […]

  11. hello~ I wanna know more about those books. :) I find it so interesting!

  12. what an awesome idea! i read it bottom-up till i saw what you’d written!

  13. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Hi Stan,

    I must confess that I feel a tad guilty not having visited your wonderful site for many moons now. But I had the inclination this evening to click on and see what great stuff I’ve been missing for some time now.

    As an avid past contributor to your book spine poesy exercises I must say you really knocked it out of the park w/ your latest offering, and even visually color-coordinated it all, to boot. I loved the bucolic word-picture you’ve painted leading into those last two lines of slightly melancholic, yet seemingly heartfelt misgivings. Wonderful piece.

    Stan, I’m re-inspired to come up w/ my own book spine poem. Never too late, eh?

    Nice to be back. Somehow I feel that I never left.

    Thanks again for being there, and enriching all our lives, Stan.


    • Stan Carey says:

      Welcome back, Alex! It’s good to see you again. Thanks for the kind words about the poem and the blog. Any colour coordination was entirely accidental, but it’s a challenge I’d like to try if I had all my books available in one place.

  14. Singledust says:

    First time I have heard of this unique way to form poetry, seems so random yet because the titles give you a boundary to work within, your final composition is your liberation. Interesting. I know what my kids and I will be doing this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

    • Stan Carey says:

      You’re very welcome. Yes, the constraints imposed by the titles are crucial, and allow for some interesting line breaks. Have fun at the weekend!

  15. […] My friend Becky found this exercise via Stan Carey’s book spine poem. […]

  16. […] Loving and Giving, which I featured in a bookmash last year, contains a couple of other linguistic items of passing interest. The line ‘Come on […]

  17. […] I’ve also featured a couple of Temple’s novels in book spine poems: Truth in ‘Useless Crazy Heart‘, and The Broken Shore in ‘A Quiet Life‘. […]

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