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Book Spine Poetry is a photo meme that involves lining up or stacking books in a particular order so the titles on the book spines create a poem. The idea originated from a photo project created by artist Nina Katchadourian.
In 1993 artist Nina Katchadourian began a photography project titled “Sorted Books” that involved stacking books in a particular order in order to create a sentence or story. A collection of her sorted book photographs, titled Sorted Books, was published by Chronicle Books on March 5th, 2013. The concept was first adapted to poetry in a post on an arts and crafts blog called buildmakecraftbake titled “Book Spine Poetry” published on February 11th, 2009.
Katchadourian’s project was highlighted on Boing Boing on September 25th, 2008. After buildmakecraftbake introduced the concept of book spine poetry in 2009 blogs began creating their own book spine poems and calling for photos of their readers’ book spine poetry. On March 5th, 2010, School Library Journal published a post titled “Poetry Friday: Spiny” which introduced the concept of book spine poetry and asked users to e-mail photos of their poems. The user submissions were published on the site on March 12th. Collecting and posting reader submissions became an annual tradition, with lists published in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
The meme was covered by more popular sites in 2012, beginning with Maria Popova’s Book Spine Poetry series on her blog Brain Pickings, which published its first installment on April 16th, 2012. On April 20th, the Tumblr blog BookSpinePoetry was created. On July 31st, 2012, The Huffington Post covered the photo meme, and on October 28th, 2012, Book Riot published “The Best of Book Spine Poetry.”
Book spine poetry became popular on Tumblr using the tag #bookspinepoetry through book publishers and library blogs which would encourage their patrons to create and post photos of their poems, such as Sullivan University Lexington Library and Harper Perennial.
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