"Siren Song"
Recommended Reading: Kevin Young's "Stones"

Shelf Expression


Shelf Expression

The heart of American poetry:
Wherever I’m at,
on Autumn Lake—
The difference is spreading,
A Black Arts poetry machine.

Old poet? 

Own poet.


This poem was inspired by a shelf of books at the New York Public Library's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, in midtown Manhattan. The first six lines consist only of book titles, but I didn't like ending with "old poet," which sounded too much like an epitaph. So, I pushed it down and tossed in a line that seemed to fit.

The Poetry Friday roundup for October 7th is at Sarah Grace Tuttle's blog. By the way, Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford's The Difference Is Spreading and Edward Hirsch's The Heart of American Poetry are excellent. Both anthologies feature poems followed by essays on each poem.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Love that title!! “Shelf Expression!”

Susan, I love that you added the last line! It makes the poem hit so differently. Thank you for sharing!

A fun exercise, and it came out well. Fancy a library having TWO copies of the same poetry book--my public library branch barely has ONE copy of anything!

Donna, Sarah, and Heidi, thanks for reading! Today in a bookstore I saw that the actual title is Old Poets (plural) but I’m gonna leave it as is. I just love the puns you can make with “shelf.”

I love how you noticed the poetry in the shelf and created your poem, but also were flexible enough to change the ending. Well done!

Oh, wow! You win the prize for most observant! Now I'm going to be on the lookout for spine poetry that the Universe sends to me!

Molly, thanks for reading! I just could not end on Old Poet. It made Autumn Lake sound like a cemetery!

Mary Lee, yes, it's so fun to look for titles that work together. I suppose I could rearrange for something even better, but I'd hate to screw up the Dewey Decimal system if I didn't put everything back correctly.

Very fun and creative cento! I may mosey over to my library to have some fun like this.

Patricia, thanks for stopping by! Doing this was great fun, and it made me look at the shelves in a new way.

I love spine poetry and especially love that you worked with this line-up. You've inspired me to be on the lookout for a poem the next time I'm at the library. :)

Karen, I recommend scanning the shelves for a poem! I was even thinking yesterday that this poem might work better backwards.

Such a cool book spine poem, Susan. I LOVE the way you owned the ending ;-)

Merci, Laura! Even though I had to work around Donald Hall's title, I'm now kind of curious about the book. I just might have to return and check it out from the library.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)