Book spine poem: Return from the Stars

It’s almost a year since my last book spine poem. Here’s a new one.


Return from the Stars

Return from the Stars,
A portable cosmos –
Island home buried in
The sky, the island of ghosts,
The uninhabitable Earth,
Kindred love, again,
Touching from a distance
The stars my destination.


Stack of books against a white background, their spines of various colours and sizes creating a found poem.


Thank you to the authors: Stanisław Lem, Alexander Jones, Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan, Eilís Dillon, David Wallace-Wells, Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Doris Lessing, Deborah Curtis, Catrina Davies, and Alfred Bester; and to Nina Katchadourian.

Lem has appeared here before, including in a previous book spine poem. Doris Lessing featured in one too. Eilís Dillon wrote a phrase (‘Wasn’t it herself told me’) that inspired my long essay on Irish English dialect. Kindred is one I read recently and liked a lot; this short Twitter thread includes an excerpt on Neanderthal storytelling.

‘Return from the Stars’ is book spine poem #48 for me. In the interests of round-number satisfaction I’ll try to make it 50 next year. You can see the others in my bookmash archive.


12 Responses to Book spine poem: Return from the Stars

  1. terrycollmann says:

    The poem is ruined if you use the original British title of Bester’s book, Tiger, Tiger – which is ironic, because, of coure, that title came from a poem …

  2. terrycollmann says:

    This is the best I could do:

    TIGER TIGER (Alfred Bester)
    BURNING BRIGHT (Tracy Chevalier)
    IN THE SHADOWS (Michael Ashcroft)
    (of the)
    NIGHT (Elie Wiesel)
    WHAT IMMORTAL HAND (Johnny Worthen)

  3. You are amazing!!!❤️

  4. Wonderful! Inspired to try this again.

  5. Cool!

    I like Lem. I was first introduced to him in a Polish lit class. I’ve read Solaris more than once (and was sad to hear the author disapproved of the latest movie adaptation, feeling that the ending wasn’t as Hollywood-y as he seemed to think).

    Also, I’m in a poetry group, and now you’ve got me thinking about book spine poems as a format our members could play with.

    Thanks for this one.

    • Stan Carey says:

      My pleasure. I imagine a poetry group could take the idea in interesting directions.

      I’m still making my way gradually through Lem’s work: 14 so far, but many remain elusive or have not been translated into English. I’d like to reread Solaris one day. Tarkovsky’s film was my introduction to Lem, and I still greatly prefer it to the other two film adaptations.

      Soderbergh’s version was a bit glossy and actorly for me, and it didn’t feel strange enough, aside from a couple of uncanny moments. And Lem was hard to please! But there are plenty of things I like about it too, such as Cliff Martinez’s musical score:

      • That soundtrack was awesome. I need to see Tarkovsky’s version sometime. There’s a third? Will have to check that out too.

        • Stan Carey says:

          Some find Tarkovsky’s film boring and austere, but I think it creates an engrossing mood. It’s slow, but that’s part of the deal. The third film was the first, chronologically: a Russian TV movie from 1968. I wouldn’t rush to see it, but it’s not without features of interest. EOFFTV has a good review.

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