Book Spine Poetry

Guest Blogger: Mimi Colson Leaning

I work with elementary school students at the Jamaica Plan Branch of the Boston Public Library as a tutor, a reading buddy and, in general, as someone to entertain the various children that hang out at the library after school.  Ever since I was little, I’ve spent at least one afternoon a week at the library participating in the different programs set up for kids like me.

As a toddler, I came for Story Time or to amuse myself with the paper and markers that Barbara, the children’s librarian, always set out for us.  When I was older, I joined the ‘Library Club’ that Barbara held every Wednesday downstairs in the basement.  Each week she came up with a theme for the ten or so little kids that would gathered and then patiently helped us as we created an accordion notebook or an origami house.  Every Halloween she brought us candy or set up a treasure hunt, and every Easter she sent us home with little Easter chocolates. And she always remembered our birthdays. For years, that club was the highlight of my week.

When I had gotten too old for Library Club, a couple of my friends and I begged Barbara to invent another club for us.  It didn’t take much convincing. Barbara didn’t like to say no to kids that loved the library.  For a couple of years, we had our own Book Club where we would discuss the novels we had chosen while we ate snacks Barbara provided and worked on a craft project related to each book.

Eventually, Book Club was replaced with a return of the Library Club, this time for teenagers, many of whom had been regulars at the various programs Barbara had organized over the years. We call it DIY (for ‘Do It Yourself’) since Barbara supplies the materials and inspiration and we come up with ideas on what we want to create (though sometimes we spend just as much time talking, reading, and laughing together).

Once a week (when I’m not working at the library), my sister Tara and I, along with our friend Alie and others, get together with Barbara for DIY.  One Monday afternoon, Barbara’s theme for the day was Book Spine Poetry which are short poems composed from the titles of books stacked on their side and read from top to bottom. We were intrigued and got to work straight away, searching through the shelves for interesting titles that we could put together. The other high school tutor who works on Mondays even joined in, making a couple of her own poems.  In just half an hour, the table was strewn with possible books to use.  We had such a great time, laughing at our ridiculous titles, high-fiving at the good ones, and calling to Barbara to “come over and see!”

Mimi Colson Leaning

Dutifully, Barbara took pictures of each of our poems, explaining to us that she would post them on the library page.  Apparently, this form of poetry is not uncommon and many people these days are posting similar pictures of book spine poetry.  A couple of weeks later, my mom asked me to write about the poetry we had created, saying that she wanted to post it on this blog since she really liked our poems.

I looked through our poetry again, laughing as I pointed out the ones I had written, and remembering the chaos of that day and the good energy that always seems to accompany activities at the library.  I guess, with all the changes that come along as we get older, some things never do change.

Alie Reilinger

Tara Colson Leaning

Mimi Colson Leaning

Alie Reilinger






Tara Colson Leaning

Mimi Colson Leaning







For more information on the Jamaica Plain Branch Library see: and 


About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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3 Responses to Book Spine Poetry

  1. pablo says:

    Now you got me doing book spine poetry!

    No Shelter
    Flying Carpets
    The Havana Habit,

    No shelter flying
    the Havana habit

  2. Barbara says:

    Thanks Mimi! I remember you told me you’d find a way to stay involved at the library when you were too old for Kids’ Club and you really did! I’m so lucky to have all you wonderful readers in my life : ) Love your poems Pablo! Book spine poetry is addictive! and thanks for HomenDunRoamin Debka.

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