Book spine poem: Walking Word by Word

April 19, 2018

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]

Photo of a stack of seven books, their spines facing front, and arranged to make a found poem, as presented in text below


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
language glass.


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Book spine poem: Antarctica

February 18, 2014

A new book spine poem (aka bookmash):



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


stan carey - book spine poem - antarctica


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.

All ways from the artist’s chair

March 30, 2010

While browsing an online gallery of works by visual poets from Australia, this image caught my eye and held my gaze. I don’t know its title — I’m guessing “always” — but I do know it’s by Alex Selenitsch, an architect, poet, and sculptor.

It reminded me of several things at once, but something about the angles and relative lengths of the lines (or letter-strings) gave the lasting impression of a chair. Maybe it’s no coincidence that when I searched for more information about the artist, I found a piece he wrote for Haiku Review called “The artist’s chair”. The chair, writes Selenitsch,

has the pivotal place in an artist’s studio. It’s where the artist sits and gazes at what’s just been done, or maybe what was done yesterday, maybe what was done some time ago. . . . Hours were spent confronting the canvas, working out what to do next, momentarily doing it, then more time confronting the results, presumably over and over until some-one took the painting away. The chair is at the centre of this meditative use of the imagination.

Granted, some artists rarely if ever use a chair as a base for their activity. When I make collages, I tend to inhabit the floor, and when I write poems, I’m more likely to be outdoors or sprawled on the bed than squinting at a screen. But a lot of creative work in various media, be it painting, writing, composing or designing, is done from a chair, and I like to see this humble item get credit for helping to prop up the arts (I leave the obvious pun to your imagination), and I wonder if its structure was deliberately evoked in “always”, or whether this similarity emerged by chance.

What do you see in Selenitsch’s visual poem? And do you have a creative relationship with your chair?

Concrete poetry: Wave/rock

May 4, 2009


If I was asked, “Why do you like concrete poetry?”
I could truthfully answer “Because it is beautiful.”







Original format: Printed sheet, 19 x 9½ inches, folded in half.

Concrete poetry is a kind of visual poetry, though the terminology is somewhat mixed. The example and quote above are by Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925–2006), a Scottish artist, poet, and gardener.

Wave/rock was published in issue 7 of Aspen, now hosted on UbuWeb.

See also:

Ian Hamilton Finley profile in The Guardian
Mary Ellen Solt’s book about concrete poetry
Pattern poems from ancient Greece