Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stuck for a title?

Title for this photograph? (comments welcome)

Titling poems is my bete noir (hey, that might make a good title). I have found it so difficult I had to research all the existing articles on the subject, and found there were almost none. So I wrote one, which is often the way I learn something -- researching it and collecting the information in my own article, which can be found here, in a back issue of Avatar Review.

If you have similar problems, and my essay doesn't help, you might try , an amusing website I encountered recently.


  1. title for photo? one idea: "Inlet"

    About titles for poems, my solution: perhaps 90-95% of the time, I lift a phrase from the poem, place it in quotation marks, and voila!
    The old method of deeming the 1st line as the title, is another (kindred) approach.
    Then there's the John Ashbery method: decide the title first, only then write the poem (the poem thus being, it would seem, partly responsive to the thought or impulse generating the title).

    Or there's the high art approach, the poem could be titled as one might title that photo:

    Untitled (Inlet)


  2. I'd call it something like 'Purest Space'.

    But I'm a Rilke fan and this photo reminded me of his 'Song of the Sea'.


  3. David -- glad this was interesting to you.

    Blue -- I am a Rilke fan too. I have done some translations of his French poems. I like your title. I was thinking if I could find a good title for the photo, I might be able to get a poem out of the picture as well. You've started me thinking metaphorically, thanks!

  4. Rachel, seven more title notions:

    Wrinkles on the shore
    In lieu of a newsbrief
    You who dwell in the hills afar
    Endless photo opportunities
    Here at the edge a widening thought
    Even the sea is sullen
    Landscape lacking figures

  5. The rock toward the lower right reminds me of a face. Somewhat vaguely, of course, but my head can't seem to get away from it.

    So I'm thinking "Eyes on the Tide"

    Hokey, I know. Sorry.

    Amazing image, however. It literally takes me there.

  6. David - "newsbrief" sounds like a poem title, woven together with the tidal image. I might noodle around with that one -- unless you want it.

    Carmi -- I like "Eyes on the Tide" too. The image is from a trip to Monterey Peninsula we took a year ago. Your title made me think "Eyes in the Tide" as we were tidepooling and the most amazing looking creatures lurked below the fringed edges of each purple and golden pool. Startled crabs and anemones, small fish even. I couldn't get a good shot into a tidepool, so I took photos of the rocks that create them instead. In my childhood, when my family camped in Baja California, we went tidepooling and my father found a baby octopus in a tidepool and put it into my hands for a few amazing moments. I remember the creature's willful movements, its urge to be free, but I wanted to keep it. Didn't, of course, despite pleas that I would go to the beach every day and get fresh seawater for its tank.

    Thanks for being taken there, and taking me there!


  7. Rachel,
    naturally all those phrases were arrayed for your free use! (including newsbrief or any desired variant) --

    but you've gotten me to look at this superb photo enough times now, till finally -- giving it a closer look -- I got drawn into the ekphrastic swing of things.

    The result is a ballade (an old form I'm lately exploring), which I've titled (as per noted method) by lifting a phrase from the poem -- in the instance, "Earth's blear".


  8. Hi Rachel,

    Read this -- and other items on your blog -- with considerable interest.

    An easy way to title is simply to find a resonant word or phrase in the poem and use that -- but I always derive a special sense of triumph in coming up with a title that doesn't come from the poem itself, but that that illuminates it in some special way.

    The Dictionary of Poetic Terms (Myers and Wukash) has a lengthy mini essay on title strategies -- layered title, pun title, subject as title, character as title, self-negating title, titles that use outside references, etc. I've been reading through that book recently, and have been writing about it on my blog -- just scroll down a bit. It's a marvellous reference that I strongly recommend.

    You'll be on my blogroll soon!