Monday, September 11, 2006

Poem Spark Sept. 11-18 - Poem titles

Greetings and Salutations fellow poets!

Today's poem spark is about one of the more important elements in a poem: the title. So many times I've decided to read a poem because it had an interesting title, or decided not to read a poem because the title seemed, well, boring. It is the very first thing a reader sees, whether in a table of contents, in a list of poems online, or at the start of a book of poems, not to mention when beginning to read a poem. As such, the title is an extremely useful device for opening a conversation with your reader. As Ted Kooser states in his book, "The Poetry Home Repair Manual:"

Ted Kooser wrote:
. . . a title isn't something you stick on just because you think a poem is supposed to have one. Titles are very important tools for delivering information and setting expectations.

Thinking about poem titles, I went to Google, typed in "poem titles" and found this page: Writing the River - Poem Titles. Look at how many interesting titles are listed. Titles like this one, "During the Long Wait These Dreams" and this one, "even when the moon don't shine" make me wonder what those poems are about. They are intriguing and interesting.

Here are some poems with titles that encourage me to continue the conversation and read the poem:

Heather McHugh What He Thought

Lawrence Ferlinghetti [Constantly Risking Absurdity]

James Wright Goodbye to the Poetry of Calcium

Sometimes titles begin a poem as its first line:

William Stafford Traveling Through the Dark

Henry Reed Naming of Parts

Sometimes a poem ends with its title:

Michael S. Harper Nightmare Begins Responsibility

Stevie Smith Not Waving But Drowning

This week, write a poem that uses either its first line or last line (or phrase) as its title. Have fun and be creative!


Janet said...

yeah, a title can enhance a poem! but on the other hand, sometimes the title is better than the poem itself (depending whose poems you are reading, of course). you get your hopes up but then are disappointed. ;)

your posts here are always so interesting.

Christine Klocek-Lim said...

Janet, I couldn't agree more. If a title sets up great expectations, when a poem doesn't follow through I am disappointed. Yet, when an awesome title is followed by an equally wonderful poem, how great is that?

Thanks for stopping by and the compliment. :-) (ps-I like the new photo!)

ufukhati said...


This is the title of a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti :

"One Thousand Fearful Words For Fidel Castro".

Certainly readers love to read this poem.

Christine Klocek-Lim said...

Darma, that's a great title! Now I have to go look up the poem. :-)

ufukhati said...


If you wish to read OTFWFFC by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, please check this book :

"Penguin Modern Poets 5 : Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg", published by Penguin Books, London, Reprinted 1970, pp 72-76.

Christine Klocek-Lim said...

Darma, thanks for the information about the book. I'll be adding it to my list. :-)