Here's the thing, I love writing and have for years, and I never have a problem putting a title to a short story, but when it comes to poetry, I just can't. I only started writing poetry a little while ago, so maybe after a few years or some more experience I'll be able to, but are they necessary?
Yes, otherwise how do you file it. Not a difficult thing to title. For years many of the poets we know as masters of the art merely gave the first line as the title.
I see what you're saying, but shouldn't a title encapsulate the emotion of the poem just as much as as the body of the text? Most of my favourite poets title their poems in this way, with the obvious exception of Emily Dickenson. Just giving the first line never seems enough.
shouldn't a title encapsulate the emotion of the poem just as much as as the body of the text?
Sure it should.
What were you thinking when you wrote the poem? You must have had SOMETHING in mind. Call it that.
Sorry if I seem argumentative, Irish trait, but I never have anything in mind, I just write. I always feel something, but I never think when I write. It sounds silly, But that's where the problem is.
Emer, I understand, some people just can't be helped.
I think a title is necessary. ED did not title her poems, we gave them the title of the first lines because how else would we refer to them? I don't think a title has to be elaborate. One work titles are great, and if the poem is difficult or abstract, a title can give the reader a clue. By the way, if the reader does not know what you are talking about in your writing...it is useless to everyone but you.
Gimme a sample poem & I will return a you title.
An abstract artist who can't think of a title may call his or her work 'Untitled'. I find that a bit disappointing, as it suggests a deficiency of imagination, but at least it's better than settling for a lousy title and branding the work with that. If you display such a work, and give it time, if it's going to live it will soon enough whisper its name to the sensitive soul.
Maybe it's the same with a poem written in a fit of absence of mind.
Show a sample to Hugh as he has suggested, and if it appears viable, he should be able to catch what name it would like to be called.
Post Edited (06-23-04 10:24)
Opus I, Opus II, Haiku 732, Sonnet 12, .......
Call it ... Ismael.
Talia, you bring up a good point. ED never really meant for the public to read her poetry. To any new poets, or forum members: If you never meant for anyone to read your poetry, it matters not, what the title is. But then why would you post it here? The title is to help the reader get a handle on the poem. As Ian suggests, a poem will develop a following of its own regardless of its title. Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare comes to mind. Few people recognize the title, but most of us recognize this:
1. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
2. Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
3. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
4. And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
5. Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
6. And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
7. And every fair from fair sometime declines,
8. By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
9. But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
10. Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
11. Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
12. When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
13. So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
14. So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
It's not the title that matters, really, it's the words.
Dear Liz (may I call you Liz?),
Please allow me to suggest a title for your Sonnet #18. I would go with Various Similitudes, with the double-pronged thrust (oops, sorry, I am feeling particularly tumescent today, ego-wise that is) of verisimilitude (truthful) and various resemblances.
Surely this will be more, uh, exciting to the reader than merely titling it the next one in a series of sonnets.
Your obedient servant,
H. Clary, esq.
p.s. Adored your Portuguese collection, but the slim tome cost me almost $20.00, surely a bit steep for so few (though enchanting) 14 liners?
Hugh, I am happy you didn't change when I wasn't looking!
Desi, where've you been? We thought you had:
b. got married to a fundamentalist Shaker
c. took a job in Siberia.
Are any of these true?
Hugh, I still think I'd still rather go with "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
I tend to agree with Pam
unless its some of my Spam
In which case, I'd choose a title such as "Someone gave Corn to the Dog"
or "Spamo Agnew of God"
HC Esq appears to have projected EBB on to WS, or is it vice versa? A two-pronged thrust, verily.
Two pronged thrust? Maybe someone told him to go fork himself !
Welcome back, Desi!
Emer, you asked: "shouldn't a title encapsulate the emotion of the poem"? Those who frequent this forum know what I'm going to say: The word "SHOULD" and the word "POEM" don't belong together! But I'm gonna answer your question anyway.
My answer is "NO."
There are legitimate purposes for poem titles, but that is not one. If you need a title to "encapsulate the emotion of the poem" is, then your poem isn't finished. The poem itself needs to do that, and if it doesn't work when presented with the first line as title, then it doesn't work, period.
One purpose is just to identify the poem. Examples: THE GERM, by Ogden Nash ("A mighty creature is the germ..."). JABBERWOCKY.
A title can also provide context that is deliberatly left out of the text. Wordsworth's "Upon Westminster Bridge" doesn't contain the words "Westminster Bridge" but he titled it so people would know where that view is FROM. At a different level, a poem wishing success to an adventurous explorer can work alone, and you can get ADDITIONAL pleasure from noting that the title is "For My Three-Year-Old Daughter."
The relationship between text and title can be part of the humor of a poem--same device, as a joke. I can't think of a real example at the moment, so here's an imaginary one. A poem describing a Herculean effort -- sweat pouring, muscles straining, breath concentrated in one great groan of effort, and at last the thrill of success! And the title: "Upon Opening a Jar of Mayonnaise."
Lots of cases fall inbetween. JERUSALEM - the word "Jerusalem" does appear in the poem, and using it as the title underscores the poet's main concern. (But it works just as well if you remember it as "Chariots of Fire.")
If you can't THINK of a title for your poem, then just use the first line, or any representative phrase from the poem. Don't attach a created title to the poem unless the title NEEDS to be part of the poem as much as any other line in it.
Okay, now I'll contradict myself with one more idea. While you're working on a poem, how do you refer to it (in your own thoughts)? If you think of it as "The poem about the bear," then maybe THE BEAR is the right title, or THE POEM ABOUT THE BEAR. If you think of it as "that horrible sonnet thing," then maybe you want to go with "Sonnet #43."
I understand what you're saying... typing... whatever, but I see the title of a poen as a part of the poem, but not necessarily something that's in the poem. I never feel that my poems are incomplete and refuse to acknowledge that a title is merely a way to "file" a poem, for god's sake, use a number, and as I have said before, I don't think when I write, and I believe that poetry should come from the heart, not the head. On top of all that, I never feel that the first line does it justice, not in an arrogant way, you understand.
Not married to any fundamentalists. Not planning to either. Siberia way to cold. Feel to young to be dying. Want to make quite a lot more mistakes before.
Problem is, I am in a practically internetless countly, namely Greece. ISDN/ADSL way out of price, so working with a modem. But I now have an internet connection at home, and so I'll drop by from time to time. Missed this forum more than anything else on the internet!
I don't feel I have anything to add to this subject. So sorry for using this space as chatspace!
It's ok, Desi, it's good to here from you again. I'm sure Emer, won't mind us borrowing her space.
"A poem describing a Herculean effort -- sweat pouring, muscles straining, breath concentrated in one great groan of effort, and at last the thrill of success! And the title: 'Opening a Jar of Mayonnaise'."
Funny, but I think I actually read that poem once. I believe it was entitled, "In Your Dreams" by Hugh Clary.
Emer, if you like you can post one of your poems here and we'll have a little contest. Whoever comes up with the title you choose (IF you choose one at all) gets... um... how about, you name your next poem after the winner?