In college, a math prof told me tests were opportunities. [An 8am class on differential equations; who wants an opportunity at 8am? But I think that was his point.] It stayed with me, the concept that difficulty and opportunity are intertwined.
In that same difficult way, titles are opportunities. They are what help the reader decide to read the poem. They need to be appealing, intriguing, have an air of mystery yet be comprehensible—or perhaps be so incomprehensible that the reader is drawn in by what they do not understand. Titles can be phrases from the poem’s body, without the context of the poem yet, in order to allow the reader an epiphany, a mental change of position as they go through the poem. They must be pithy—or they must wave their verbosity as so large a flag it is impossible to deny.
Every weekday, over at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Christine Klocek-Lim posts a new poem. I get them through Twitter. And this fact, the fact that Klocek-Lim tweets only author and title and URL is what has made me think hard about titles.
Because, dear reader, most of them do not make me want to click the link. That little effort. Raise the thumb, squeeze. That’s it. And yet often I find the titles do not compel a mash on the phone.
So I want to take a look through the most recent ten titles and say yea or nay—and why.
- “Soldier’s Home” [link]
I clicked this one because I decided there was enough ambiguity in the possesive apostrophe—it could be the home of the soldier or “the soldier is home”—that I wanted to see which. But I had to think about it.
- “Yokohama” [link]
Sure, I like Japan. I also like specificity.
- “Idiot Hearts” [link]
Oh, yes, what’s an idiot heart? And, I guess, aren’t we all?
- “Downstream” [link]
Possibly just because it sounded cold and it’s hot here. Very very hot. Otherwise, it’s simple and not particularly memorable.
- “Rebirth on the Side of the Road” [link]
I should have, right? There’s a nice mix of oddity [rebirth] and normalcy [road side], as well as concept juxtaposition [same as previous asides], but well, no, I just couldn’t get excited about someone else’s rebirth. [I wonder whether “Road-Side Rebirth” would have tingled my Spidey sense more?”]
- “Feedback” [link]
Yes! Which type of feedback is it? There’s a chance it’s not a poem about a poetry workshop, it could be electrical feedback!
- “Another Love Story” [link]
Nope. I didn’t want to read another love story.
- “Numinous” [link]
Always more numinousity! But, to be honest, I clicked this because of the author.
- “Reflection” [link]
Nope. While feedback had lots of synonym options, and reflection does too, it wasn’t sufficiently unusual enough for me to want to see what type of reflection was going on here.
- “Well-Attended” [link]
I really didn’t know what this meant, whether it meant a group of people or an event, or perhaps both, and that was intriguing.
Perhaps you’d have followed all these links based on the titles? Or you’d have picked only the ones I didn’t? Please tell me so, and why. I’d love to hear more angles on what works for titles. Just not at 8am.