Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ways to Think About a Book Title

Something About a Dark Honeycomb--5 words, 9 syllables. This title is more evocative, visible, has intimations of both uncertainty and shadow which surely is what my writing is imbued with. Even in joyful poems of which there are some. This title is more pleasing to the ear with the ing, the -ar-, the n and ms, the long last o vowel. When I read about the phrase “dark honeycomb,” I can see that if it was studied it could be meaningful--the place where the baby bees are birthed/raised (whatever happens to baby bees from whatever form they come from) the darkness indicative of less pure matter, more occupied, busier cells as opposed to the tranquil hexagons of only honey. Is it misleading to reference a natural object that really doesn’t have a primary place in the poems as opposed to a bird or the lake or other objects repetitively addressed and hauled out for scenery? Is it misleading because of its relationship to sweetness--although the honeycomb itself would be a rougher version and maybe dark curtails full sweetness (the difference if title was Something About Honey--which sounds maybe too Winnie the Pooh to me. Maybe only if it’s a jar of honey.) Also, the side-note thinking about the power/significance of a poem that a title is taken from. If this was the book title, it is also a poem title. I like the poem, but don’t think it’s most powerful or central or even in the top 5.

Cupboard That Won’t Quite Shut--5 words, 6 syllables. Am I paying attention to this counting because I’m worried that other people don’t like the long, long titles that I revel in? Are they too much like those people who have a first name, a last name, and 10 or 12 others in between? If I think only about sound, I might note that all of the end sounds are hard sounds, stops--d or t. How unlikely that feels. Makes it more emphatic, less mellifluous? I like this title because of the idea of container, so something is inside, and also that the container is somehow imperfect. And the sense of everydayness to the named object--cupboard. It’s a very domestic word. Everyone has one or more filled with things they love and things they’re trying to hide. Or things they’ve forgotten or want to forget. Sometimes they are very neat with shelf paper, but the un-shut-ability of this cupboard seems to argue against that. Also, if not shut things can not only leak out, but also get in. No closed system here. And that feels very true to me. Kind of as if Pandora’s Box is a very false story because it can never remain completely closed forever. Maybe Pandora is blameless? Maybe the un-shut-ability also gives a kind of energy/life to things contained?

I’m down to these two titles from an all-time high of 32 choices. (A long time ago, I had a book that was titled Mystery Hill. I still like that title.)


  1. Depends on what the poems are about. The first would suggest to me poetry about, perhaps, the natural world. The word "dark" has many associations and implications. The second would suggest to me to expect observations about domestic life, old houses, and house repair.
    I don't think it matters if the title is taken from a poem that is not the central poem in the book, as long as it has some sort of resonances with the overall theme.

  2. Some of both--natural world/domestic life/repair of things.

  3. I like both of them, but I think I like Cupboard better - more representative, thematically?