Friday, June 15, 2012

Initial Pleasures

The first summer deadlines for manuscript competitions and open readings are closing in. I can feel the huff of each day in June as it passes me by like a giant very slow fan of calendar pages. Time to work a little harder.

I'm pretty sure I've got the order down—shoehorning in those two newer poems (gladsome surprises). But now to consider the Table of Contents where poems are represented only by titles. What do you get from reading the T of C? What should you get? The title of this post refers to what I'd hope for—an initial pleasure for the reader. Titles that strike sparks, grab you by the hair, imbue you with angst, stop you dead in your tracks, locate you in my personal neck of the woods.

I know the title "To Autumn" worked pretty well for Keats, but that was in 1819. There weren't so many poems then. Same goes for Sonnet #131, unless I am into numerology. Maybe if it was in binary code or something. I also really don't like the repetition involved if there is no title and the first line is used for the title. It's like that funny misstep you make when you go upstairs and there isn't one more. 

Can a title be like a threshold where you gather a sense of the room of the poem? Should it launch you like a diving board? Maybe it's the grave piling you cling to on the edge of the mad rush of the poem and its magnetic swampiness.Or the invisible pull that turns you in the right direction.There should be a suggestion of tone, language. If the book is divided into parts, there should be a sense of the tributaries as well as a sense of the river.

OK, I just took a look. Lots of two-part titles which I like—a kind of exuberance of communication. Titles with parentheticals and also titles like eighteenth century novel chapter titles—"Title Right Now or What Happened after the Title fell into the Manuscript."

 I'm a little surprised by one thing. In the past I have inveighed against one word titles. But I see I have four such titles: "Butterick," "Marzipan," "Nacre," "Accolade." In my head I can concoct many arguments for the necessity of their brevity. For the first three, many thoughts on the uniqueness of the one word. But "Accolade"? Maybe I should revisit that.


  1. you're fond of the spondee and dactyl, it appears. BUTterrick, MARzipan-!

  2. Hmmm: what was in your removed comment?
    The title of this post could be a romance title!