[review + giveaway] Spine Poems by Annette Dauphin Simon

Annette Dauphin Simon first discovered the delights of found verse about a decade ago while working as a bookseller for an independent bookshop in Florida. 

Titles by Vivian Gornick/Nina Laden and Kelsey Garrity-Riley
Unfinished Business
You Are a Beautiful Beginning

One rainy Sunday afternoon, during a lull following a rush of customers, she and a colleague looked at the stacks of books lying in disarray around the store. After laughing at the random arrangement of titles resulting from genres mingling together, they came up with their own game of “rearrangements.”

Titles by Billy Collins/Adam Rex.
The Trouble With Poetry
Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Science fiction + business. History + mystery. A book from here with a book from there. Creating these collages from other people’s words was so much fun. Since some of their new constructions appeared poem-like, they called them “found verses,” not knowing at the time that it’s a recognized form of writing dating back to the 1920s.

Titles by Jenny Offill and Barry Blitt/Julia Sarcone-Roach/Dana Alison Levy/Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri.
While You Were Napping
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
It Wasn't Me
Dragons Love Tacos

Well, Annette was hooked. She shared new verses with her colleagues on a regular basis and documented her spine poetry with her camera. She shared her poems on social media and even turned some of them into greeting cards. 

Spine poetry soon became an obsession and she’s never tired of the process over the years, finding constant inspiration from bookstores, libraries, and her own shelves.

Now we can all enjoy Annette’s clever centos in her new book, Spine Poems: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse for Book Lovers (Harper Design, 2022).

This elegantly designed, chunky compendium contains over 100 poems paired with Annette’s full-color photos. Opposite each of the photos you’ll find the printed text as well as some interesting sidenotes – a delicious miscellany of author quotes, fascinating facts, and literary or pop culture tidbits related to the poem’s subject, authors or titles.

Titles by Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis/Corinna Luyken/Deborah Freedman/Deborah Helligman/Karen Romano Young/Brian Selznick/Rachel Hollis/Gordon Korman.
My Heart
Is Was

Hundred Percent

Didn't See That Coming

The verses range from hilarious two-line quips and truisms, to quirky observations about life and love, to insightful social commentary about the strange times we live in. Bursting with charm and joie de vivre, these friendly, visually appealing collages are accessible and oh-so-relatable, capable of turning skeptics into instant poetry lovers.

Annette has truly mastered the form; it speaks to her many talents not only as a picture book author-illustrator and bookseller, but also as a former advertising creative director. 

Titles by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas/Anne Bustard/Julie Flett/Oge Mora/Allie Brosh/Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo.
I Am Jazz
Blue Skies
Solutions and Other Problems

I Am Enough

I like how the poems are presented in categories just as you’d find in a bookstore:

  • Fiction (Love & Romance; Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror)
  • Poetry
  • Nonfiction (Art, Biography & Memoir, Business, Cooking, Home & Garden, Music, Parenting, Philosophy; Politics, History & Current Events; Pop Culture, True Crime)

And as someone who’s crazy about the alphabet, I really love the variety of colors, typefaces and fonts on those spines! I maintain that typefaces have definite personalities, ranging from bold and serious, to casual and endearing, to sassy and sophisticated. Some typefaces prefer to convey a quiet, erudite message, while others are happiest being flowy and playful. All good.

Titles by Erin McHugh/Ann Imig/Kasie West/Jini Patel Thompson/Curtis Stone.
Like My Father Always Said . . . 
Listen to Your Mother
Listen to Your Heart
Listen to Your Gut

What's for Dinner?

Book design is a fascinating art form. We usually pay the most attention to the front of book covers, so it’s nice to see spines having a moment thanks to Annette.

Oh, and did I mention how much I love the Cooking section? Surely she included it just for me. 🙂 

Nibble on:

Titles by Leslie Cottrell Simonds/Oprah Winfrey/Ashley Rhodes-Courter/Mihaela Metaxa-Albu
I Want You to Know
What I Know for Sure
Three Little Words
I Heart Cheese


Titles by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher/Jillian Tamaki/Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan/Candace Walsh.

Our Little Kitchen
A Place at the Table
Licking the Spoon

This little poetic “meal” appeals to all appetites, as it consists of a picture book, a middle grade novel, a young adult novel, and an adult memoir. I loved Our Little Kitchen and A Place at the Table (co-authored by writer friend Laura Shovan), and I’ve been meaning to read Licking the Spoon.

This is the special appeal of spine poems:  while you’re feasting on the poem itself, you happily recognize titles you’ve already read and become intrigued by those you haven’t. Now I have tons of new-to-me books to look forward to.

About those sidenotes: for the poem “Sanctuary,” here are a couple to tickle your fancy:

  • “May the memory of this moment, here, the glowing impression of the two of us facing each other in this warm, bright place, drinking lovely hot tea, help save him, even a little bit.” ~ Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen, 1988.
  • “And now I have to stop. Because every time I remember this, I have to cry a little by myself. I don’t know why something that made me so happy then feels so sad now. Maybe that is the way it is with the best memories.” ~ Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife, 1991.
  • Spoons have been around since prehistoric times, as natural materials were adapted as eating utensils. The Greek and Latin words for “spoon” come from cochlea, meaning a spiral shell, the Anglo-Saxon word spon means a chip of wood. By the Middle Ages, royalty and other wealthy people used spoons made of precious metals. When pewter became common in the fourteenth century, spoons became affordable to the general population.

I loved both Yoshimoto’s and Tan’s novels, and the spoon is my favorite utensil. Suffice to say, I live for this kind of stuff. See why this book is so much more than meets the eye?

If I had to choose the most visually striking spine poem in the book, it would likely be the green poem, since it’s my favorite color.

Titles by Laura Vaccaro Seeger/Dianne White and Felicita Sala/Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad/Kao Kalia Yang and Khoa Le/Liz Garton Scanlon and Simone Shin.
Green on Green
When Green Becomes Tomatoes
The Most Beautiful Thing
Thank You, Garden

Love how the poem is framed top and bottom with greens and oranges, and those typefaces really speak to me. Smack dab in the middle is, “When Green Becomes Tomatoes” = still one of my fave poetry picture books ever!

Keith Calabrese/Matthew Burgess and Kris DiGiacomo.
A Drop of Hope
Enormous Smallness

Spine Poems is, of course, the perfect gift book for bibliophiles, poetry lovers, trivia enthusiasts, and pop art fans. It’s an entertaining feel-good book on so many levels, and Annette’s witty and winsome verses are an open invitation to try fashioning your own. Icing on the cake: this book has the best dedication and afterword. Wait till you see it!

Here’s what Mr Cornelius came up with:

Titles by Dana Gioia/David Lee Garrison and Terry Hermsen/Nicole Gulotta/Mary Paumier Jones and Judith Kitchen/Lee Gutkind.
Can Poetry Matter?
O Taste and See
Eat This Poem

In Short
Keep It Real
Titles by Melissa Iwai/Mark Crick/Maira Kalman/Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu-Flanders/Caroline Stutson and Teri Weidner/Gary Goss and Jane Dyer/Kim Severson/Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis.
Soup Day

Kafka's Soup
Chicken Soup, Boots
Dumpling Soup
Blue Corn Soup
Blue Moon Soup
Spoon Fed
Titles by Maira Kalman/Sarah Weeks/Martha Stewart/Frances Park and Ginger Park/Rosanne Tolin/Brigid Allen/Alex Prud’homme and Sarah Green.
My Favorite Things

Chocolate Chocolate
More Than Marmalade

Born Hungry

Finally, Paddington Bear offered his personal review of the book!

Titles by Lori Foster/Annette Dauphin Simon/Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera/Arthur Plotnik/Kathleen T. Horning/Naomi Shihab Nye/Mona Lisa Schulz/Robert Henri/Katherine Paterson/David Sacks.
Simon Says

Spine Poems
Spunk and Bite
From Cover to Cover
Words Under the Words
Awakening Intuition
A Sense of Wonder
Letter Perfect

Only problem we can see: beware, making spine poems is addictive! 🙂


SPINE POEMS: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse
written and photographed by Annette Dauphin Simon
published by Harper Design, September 2022
Found Poetry Gift Book, 224 pp.
*Includes Selected Bibliography of Books, Websites, Video and Radio

Amazon || Bookshop



The publisher is generously providing a brand new copy Spine Poems for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, October 12, 2022. You may also enter by sending an email with SPINE POEMS in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!



Today is the last day to enter these two giveaways:

Click to enter the Bundle of Joy Giveaway!
Click for a chance to win a copy of this book!


Lovely and talented Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Goodbye, September, where did you go?

* All spreads from the book: SPINE POEMS by Annette Dauphin Simon. Copyright © 2022 by Annette Dauphin Simon. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

**Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

70 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] Spine Poems by Annette Dauphin Simon

  1. I feel dumb because we at my bookstore are always creating spine poems & then smiling or laughing at the creations. This looks fabulous, Jama. I love each one, but that garden ending is just perfect & your one about soup – time for that, right? It was fun to see titles I have or have read, too. Thanks for this fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love these Spine Poems and was thrilled to see two of my books used as lines.
    I wish that all license plates on cars were words so that traffic jams and parking lots had a chance to become poetry, stories or nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love spine poems – I never have books with clever enough titles or enough time to think of them to make those cute poems people post everywhere. I love that someone put them in a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this idea! I have a pile right near me on my couch! Here goes:

    The Handmaid’s Tale
    The Unplanned Life of Josie Hale
    Sister Stardust
    Paul McCartney The Lyrics

    Doesn’t make sense, but it is fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely spectacular idea for a book! It’s like mini book talks too. I need to share this with everyone at school. Thanks for the heads up!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the humor in Spine Poems. Very well done! (I have made spine poems before but didn’t realize you can make spaces by adding turned-around books between the stanzas! So helpful.)
    Here’s a spine poem from books on my nearby shelf:
    Radical Acceptance
    Living Beautifully

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, nice, I like that!! Esp. intrigued by Living Beautifully. 🙂 And yes, turned-around books are great for stanza breaks and for setting off titles.


  7. Annette’s spine poems are head-to-toe awesome, Jama, most especially her cheesey choice. (Did she arrange those with my Smidgey in mind?) I love visiting your blog, I always find something awesome. (you!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, since she included a Cooking section for me, it’s not far fetched to assume she made the cheesey poem for Smidgey . . . 😀


  8. I love spine poems and this book looks absolutely amazing. Simon makes it look easy, but I’ve tried and know it’s not. You’ve not done too badly yourself! Thanks for sharing, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jama, you always choose amazing books to review for our pleasure. I see the little group in your kitchen also love your choices. Your spine book poetry is remarkable and noting the arrangement of the stacks, typography, colors of the books are thoughts I will remember as I create my own. I have found a new hobby now for my library stacks. I tweeted about this book review because teachers need to read your charming, content-filled thoughts on a fun way to write poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad someone has finally published an excellent collection of spine poems. Nice to have this reference; previously, I’d see them popping up on various blogs here and there, but not enough to truly inspire me to try for myself.


  10. These are the most fantastic spine poems EVER! I lovelovelove how she created breaks with books turned the other way around. Why did I never think of that?!?!


  11. Oh, I love this post and now I just want to stay home today and write some spine poetry! These are fabulous examples and I would love to get my hands on this book and check out the other details you mentioned. (The quote from Amy Tan brought tears to my eyes.) I suspect this book may go under the tree for one or two of my book-loving family this holiday season! What a great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because there’s a tactile element to creating spine poems, you use a different part of your brain. This can jump start other ideas for when you’re writing poems on paper or computer.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you thank you, Jama, for your lovely, kind words and your spectacular spine poems! Thank you thank you, Dear Commenters; wish I had books for you all. And thank you thank you to the Authors, Artists, Editors, and Translators whose works grace my own pages. #fun #readtheirbooks

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I adore spine poetry! The book appeals to all my senses — I feel a greedy desire to own it RIGHT NOW. 😀 Your own contributions (excuse me, ahem, the contributions of Mr. Cornelius) add even more delight. Thanks for introducing me to this book, Jama! A feast of a post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear you’re a spine poetry fan, Karen. Mr Cornelius likes making spine poems, but he’s not good about re-shelving any of the books he experiments with. Kind of a mess around here . . .


Comments are closed.