Ninety years ago today, the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary – 414,825 words defined in 15,487 pages over 12 volumes – was completed. Invited by its editors to mark the anniversary, I’ve made a new book spine poem, dedicated to the OED and to James Murray:
[click to enlarge]
Walking Word by Word
Caught in the web of words,
The loom of language,
The stuff of thought,
The story of writing –
a line made by
walking word by
word through the
Caught in the Web of Words by K. M. Elisabeth Murray, granddaughter of James, is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the OED or the history of lexicography. It was considered by Anthony Burgess to be one of the best biographies of the 20th century.
My thanks to the authors: K. M. Elisabeth Murray, Frederick Bodmer, Steven Pinker, Andrew Robinson, Sara Baume, Kory Stamper, and Guy Deutscher.
Some of these books and authors have featured before. You can browse the full archive of book spine poems, which also includes links to other people’s. Or join in, if you take a notion.
Update: This effort caught the eye of the good people at the OED, who interviewed me about language, dictionaries, and book spine poetry.
Language as is, is a colored glass which shows real in an indirect method,shows other than what is.
This is beautiful, Stan. Your line-breaks within the last three book titles deepens the poetic meaning.
Thank you, Katherine. I didn’t want them to be gratuitous, but I think they work OK.
Love it! If I had the knack you do, I’d put one together!
Try it! All you need are two or three that go together. Sometimes that’s enough.
Lovely. Maybe my fave of your word-spine poems yet.
Thanks, Elizabeth; I’m glad you like it.
What a brilliant idea!
I first saw it done by the artist Nina Katchadourian, in her project ‘Sorted Books’. It’s a fun way to spend time rummaging around your bookshelves.
Thanks for a great poem & wonderful idea! – just shared with reading/writing/editing friends (I’m also an editor). Here’s my 1st try:
Daughter of Earth
Holding up the sky
World on fire
When memory dies
Memoria del fuego
Rivers have sources
trees have roots
Mirror of the world
(thanks to authors, Agnes Smedley, Barbara Mututantri, Amy Chua, A Sivanandan, Eduardo Galeano/Memory of Fire, Dionne Brand & Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, Zhao Jinglun, Stephen Endicott)
Thank you, and welcome to the game! I like your book spine poem, and I hope you took a photo of it for posterity.
[…] weeks ago I made a visual poem from book spines to mark the 90th anniversary of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED editors […]
[…] See how it works much, much better in Stan Carey’s post. […]
[…] and writer from the west of Ireland, and first published ‘Walking Word by Word’ on his blog, Sentence First. The poem is dedicated to the OED and to James Murray, the remarkable editor who led the first […]
[…] For further reading: https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/book-spine-poem-walking-word-by-word/ […]
[…] almost forgot how much fun it is to make book spine poems. My last one was about a year ago (and led to an interview at the OED), so it’s about time I did another. This […]