Project Poetry Journal


My recent obsession with black out poetry inspired a return to my old hobby of creating handmade journals, (See Project Art Journal and Project Spirit Journal).  After creating more than 50 black out poems, I realized I needed a better place to store them than a plastic sheet protector. It’s tough to enjoy them when they are stacked in a pile and shoved inside a pocket!

A quick search on bookbinding offered a number of choices, but one really jumped out at me – The Coptic Stitch. This stitch works great for thicker journals and it allows the journal to open flat at any given point. However, my favorite part is the ease of attaching a hard cover.

Thus, Project Poetry Journal began! Before I knew it I had a beautiful book full of black out poetry:


Front Cover

Here’s how I did it:


  • cardboard
  • printed paper
  • card stock
  • brown paper sack
  • alphabet stickers
  • assorted ephemera
  • paper piercer
  • glue stick
  • double sided tape
  • thick thread
  • scissors
  • needle

The Cover:

I cut two pieces of cardboard to size and then wrapped them in a brown paper bag to create a smooth finish. Brown paper lunch sacks are the best for this process because the paper is thin and pliable once slathered with a glue stick. It’s almost like fabric and it doesn’t take much to create a wrinkle free finish.


A smooth paper bag finish softens the edges and corners.

For the front cover, I layered a piece of printed paper that looked like an old newspaper. For the title I applied alphabet stickers that blended in nicely with the background. The letters look like they are part of the newspaper, but they jump out at the same time. To add some strength to the binding, I added a thin strip of decorative card stock to the edge.

On the inside covers, I used a brown paper sack covered in antique advertisement graphics. This served to hide the initial cover flaps and folds, while also giving the interior a little personality.  Once again, a glue stick made the paper pliable and easy to smooth out.


Inside front cover


Inside back cover

The Pages:

To keep my black out poems from crumbling, (I used a 1940 falling-apart novel to create my blackout poetry, so the pages are very fragile!), I decided to use card stock for the pages of my journal.  After cutting the sheets to the correct size, I created five signatures consisting of five pages folded in half. I used a bone folder to create a strong crease so the signatures would lie relatively flat when stacked.

I didn’t trim the edges in order to create a deckled edge. I like this edging because it creates a more rustic feel and it makes turning the pages a little easier.


Deckled edge pages


I punched six evenly spaced holes along the center fold of each signature using a paper piercer. The process can be a little slow, but it’s worth taking the time to make sure the holes line up perfectly. I created a template and simply laid it over each folded sheet and put my paper piercer through the template and the page beneath at the same time.

Using the same paper hole template, I pierced six holes along the sides of the front and back covers. The holes are a little more than a .25″ from the edge.

With my signatures and covers hole-punched, it was time to stitch. To guide me in the process of sewing a Coptic Stitch, I found a great tutorial on youtube.

It took a few tries, but I eventually got the hang of it! The result is beautiful binding that holds everything together.


Coptic Stitch Binding

The Content:

Once my book was bound, I could fill the pages with content. First, I created a title page to pay homage to the source material of my black out poetry. I cut apart the title page of the original novel and attached it to a discarded library book pocket. In addition, I added my author credit to a discarded library due date card, along with a symbol associated with my source material. The use of discarded library materials is a nod to the idea of found art and upcycling.


Upcycled title page


Inside the pocket

From there, I added the poems. Due to the fragile nature of the poetry pages, I used double stick tape instead of a glue stick. I made sure the tape was very close to the edges so no part of the paper could lift off the card stock when pages are turned.


Black out poetry affixed to a page

I had so much fun with this project, another poetry journal is already in the works to house the haikus I wrote for the 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge.

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Special Note: Three poems from this book have been posted, (See Black Out Poetry) and I will continue to post more. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2015