Does a Poem’s Title Matter?

poetsponderingahead

At the weekend I was out walking when nature gave me one of those gifted moments set-up for poetry. As I walked past the village church the sun illuminated the church clock. It was 6.30 a.m. and the sound of pigeons echoed from the bell tower. A murder of crows hopped around the churchyard. From notes and a number of drafts the following poem emerged.

Six-thirty a.m.
Pigeons sing from the belfry,
Crows bounce on gravestones.

After a few days of pondering I am struggling to give the poem a title. I have come up with a number of possibilities; Stone the Crows, Church Disco, Birdsong. None of them seem to fit. This brings us to the focus of the blog, does the title of a poem matter?

When you write a poem do you start with a title in mind, or does the title come to light when the poem is either in progress, or written?

It is a mixture for me. Sometimes I think of the title first and write the poem around it. For example, I recently read a collection of articles from a digest where one of the articles was titled, Biography of a Wasp. What a great title for a poem. (This one is an in progress).

On most occasions I start the poem from a prompt, observation or experience and the title can change numerous times whilst writing. I also find that when I pick up a poem for drafting, after putting it aside for a while, the title seems inappropriate and changes.

As a reader of poetry it is sometimes the title of the poem that draws me in, but on most occasions the author of the poem and the poems content and subject area are more important. With certain poems I struggle to connect the title with the content, but isn’t that one of the joys of poetry?

Perhaps I should take a lead from Shakespeare and, like his sonnets, number my poems from 1-154.

What are your views on poem titles? Do you have any suggestions for my untitled poem?

I would welcome your thoughts.

90 Comments

Another awesome post that invites discussion! πŸ™‚

For me, it is always the poem or the fiction first before the title. I don’t know why but that’s how it work for me. I have tons of untitled poem in my poem-chest and I only titled them once they’re up to be scheduled. πŸ˜‰

But like you said, it doesn’t matter which comes first, but does title matter? Personally, titles are like clickbaits. (most of the time but not always). they somehow serve as invitations, but sometimes just like you, the writer or the theme is more important than the title itself.

Well.. look at Shakespeare. πŸ˜‰

Liked by 9 people

    Thank you Rosema. It is nice to hear about the thoughts and writing processes of other poets. I agree about titles being clickbait especially in the age of social media. There is a lot of advice about titles being written for google algorithms. I wondered if this influenced any poets when writing poems to be put on social media. Thanks again for the valued response.

    Liked by 4 people

      Social media and search engine optimization never cross my mind when I write or title a poem. If I got hung up with whether Google was going to like it or not, I’d never get anything written, not even a grocery list. I have to write what feels right to me. If Google likes it, then that’s just gravy on the ‘taties. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

      Cheers to that Suzanne. Is that one of your Celtic inherited sayings?

      Liked by 1 person

      Thank you. “Taties” was inspired by something that I misheard once when our daughter was talking, but it is also part of our heritage. “Gravy on the taties”, though, is something that just came to mind as I was responding to the social media comment, inspired by my Celtic heritage.

      Liked by 2 people

      Oh. I did not know about that google algorithms. πŸ˜‰ I title my poem it terms of instinct I guess? πŸ˜€
      Thank you for this lovely discussion. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

      A pleasure Rosema. Thanks again for getting involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      always my pleasure. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

      I think in a world where so many people find it difficult to use their imagination,think for themselves,that title can be very important as it draws people in – I suppose that sounds a bit advertising slogan-ish but that’s what it amounts to – I tutor p/t and the trick to inveigling students into even READING poetyr is to chat about ‘title’.For me however as a writer/expressor of poetry and as a songwriter/lyric writer it is always the poem/lyrics first – it is like an extension of my feelings or what I have seen/experienced and to stop long enough to give it a title does not even occur to me.I do have a bit of a tussle when naming the song and sometimes go for the ridiculous – I wrote a song about unrequited love – surprise surprise!! and after driving myself mad trying to think of a title,I called it “Bert The Magpie”…..most people read every line of lyric!!Ha!HA! Sadly,no Bert to be found!! Peace,light:)xo

      Liked by 1 person

      Thanks for this Robyn and good to hear a perspective from someone who teaches poetry and as a song/lyric writer. I suppose the process for poetry and song lyric writing is similar, songs could be construed as poetry set to music. I suppose the question changes depending on the environment it is being discussed. Bert the Magpie? didn’t he experienced unrequited love πŸ™‚ I appreciate you taking time out to read and comment.

      Like

The title that came to mind for me is Morning Life….a kind of juxtaposition with the gravestones. Of course, a silliness-inspired title could be Rockin’ the Belfry, a play again on the gravestones and the music going on with the pigeons in the belfry.

For me, the title usually comes after the poem is written, though sometimes what feels right to me hits as I am writing it. Very rarely do I have the title first.

I do not think that it is always necessary for a poem to have a title. I was reading recently that there are some poem formats that do not have titles. I cannot remember the specific types at the moment. I do remember that I was looking for more information about haiku when I read it.

Your poem is nice. I can picture it. Graveyards are one of my favorite places to be. Have a blessed day.

Liked by 4 people

    Rockin the Belfry, I love that one Suzanne. Maybe I will just write my poems and get you to title them (pending agreed rates). As you say, there are a lot of Haiku that are not titled and I don’t know why this is, but it does make for interesting conversation. I am pleased you liked the poem and like you I find graveyards fascinating places. They provide a lot of motivation for writing. Thank you for your informative reply and it was nice to read about some of the processes you use when writing. Enjoy your week.

    Liked by 1 person

      I’m glad that you liked that title, Davy. πŸ™‚ Sometimes things just come to me. Other times, nothing happens no matter how much I try.

      Maybe in some cases, the Haiku itself can stand on its own and just doesn’t need a title. Maybe a title would just get in the way. In that way, maybe using the numbers like with the sonnets that you referenced is a good idea. Numbering doesn’t give one any preconceived notions about the poem and one can take it as it is written.
      You’re welcome and thank you. I enjoy reading your posts about poetry as well as your poems. Have a blessed week.

      Liked by 1 person

      Thank you again Suzanne. I enjoy writing the midweek poetry pieces as it allows me to have a chat with other people writing poetry. I am very interested in human behaviour and human motivation and it is nice to find out how poets work and what makes them tick. I hope you continue to enjoy them and if you have any ideas about future posts I would be pleased to hear.

      Liked by 1 person

      You’re welcome, Davy.

      Thank you. If I think of anything that might be helpful to you, I will let you know.

      Speaking of which, did you know that there is a poetry challenge going on in October? It is called OctPoWriMo. Here is the link: http://poetsonthepage.blogspot.com/p/poetry-challenge.html

      I’ve signed up for it and now I’m hoping that I won’t be hit with a major writing block when I least need one (not that I ever need one!).

      I like to know what makes people tick, too. I drive David crazy always wanting to know the backstory.
      Have a great week.

      Liked by 2 people

      Thank you Suzanne. I will have a look at the October poetry challenge. Enjoy the rest of your week.

      Liked by 1 person

      You’re welcome, Davy. Thank you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your week, too.

      Liked by 1 person

Great, reflective post, Dave. Suzanne sums it up well: ‘Sometimes things just come to me. Other times, nothing happens no matter how much I try.’ Sometimes instinctively it just happens, other times it takes time. Reminds me of trying to title a blog post or an article / publication. Check out Malcolm Gladwells revisionist history episode on the production of genius http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/07-hallelujah it’s linked to this debate, more so content than title – but both are inextricably linked.

Liked by 4 people

Don’t think titles matter as much as we think they should. I struggle with titles for poetry and at university struggled with titles for research papers (this was of utmost importance we were told again and again). Have never given titles for any haiku or tanka I’ve written, as according to tradition, these are not named. Maybe knowing haikus don’t require titles will take the pressure off to do so;)

Liked by 4 people

A friend of mine once gave me some very helpful advice. When searching for the title of a poem ask, what haven’t I said in the body of the poem that would add to the poem? Sum that up in just a few words. That is your title.

Liked by 5 people

This discussion can also expand beyond poetry: what about titling blog posts or fiction stories? Personally, like many other bloggers who have commented, it depends. Sometimes, the title just jumps at you and you just feel that it’s right. Sometimes, you’re staring at your empty title space for days trying to come up with something. That’s unfortunately one of the crosses we must bear in creative writing, I think lol. Ultimately, it’ll be a title you just feel is right πŸ™‚

Liked by 3 people

Hi Davy–I’m back (Rosey’s American much-older honorary sister) with a new blog, and being selective with those I follow; you made the cut–hurrah! I rarely think I’ve got a winning title–sometimes, though, one will work (at least for me, if not readers)–such as my recent “Cobra Nights” (no obligation to you to read, etc). Reading through the comments here, I like the advice of David Belcher–particularly because when I use short forms, the title would allow me those added syllables/words! Have a blessed day πŸ™‚

Liked by 3 people

Well now. Apart from the possible title ‘Murder in the Churchyard’ which is already the title of a book, I think I would need the body of your poem to think of a more apposite title. Your explanation of how you currently work is similar to my own, and I can only propose that you wait until inspiration has brought about a complete poem to think again about a title. Often a phrase from somewhere else in the poem will suggest itself as a suitable title.

Liked by 3 people

    I agree Roland. More times than most the poems title is like the poem, a work in progress. As I said in the post sometimes I see a phrase or something that would make a great title for a poem. I find this route quite difficult when writing though.

    Liked by 1 person

Titles, whether for a poem, story or book, are so critical in wooing a potential reader into actually taking time to get into the text. My personal experience shows that a succinct expression of the subject usually expresses in the title. I try for a phrase that will bait the reader, yet will be ambiguous enough to create some curiosity.
http://www.crossingpaths.net

Liked by 3 people

Coo, crows!

For me, the title has to come from the poem. It’s an integral element and can’t be determined until the poem is sorted.

Just me, though.

Cheers,

Frank

Liked by 2 people

    Thanks Frank. It good to hear different views from different poets. I wonder if this comes down to behavioural preferences, schooling or something else completely random. Thanks for taking time out to visit and add to the conversation.

    Like

I always name my poems secondary to writing them. I too find it hard. How do you name a collection of thoughts and feelings? πŸ™‚

Liked by 3 people

    It is a difficult one Eleanor, but it is good to hear how different poets and writers handle this subject. I still think Shakespeare had the right idea and just gave his sonnets numbers. Thanks for taking the time out to read and take part in the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

Well, I usually post all of my poems on Instagram. And the thing is, most of them doesn’t even have a title on it. Usually the captions would be something like, “Late night thoughts” or “11.54pm”, you know just to specify when I wrote it. In all honesty, I find that having a title might just give something away to the readers before even reading the poem itself. Like when they see the title and they will be thinking, “Ah, another poem about nature.” So I try to refrain from putting titles into my poems. 😊

Liked by 3 people

Really nice post.
I agree with the fact that you just start writing, and go with the flow of the words on your mind and later give it a title, I usually follow that too.

Liked by 3 people

My poems look read like a train wreck. I do not have drafts which is probably why most of the suck, however; some are ok. I always have a title and a photo, it’s just seems fit and perfect for each poem I write. Your writing is very beautiful and eloquent. I think my problem is I do not have a huge vocabulary which makes my poems read more elementary. My grandkids like my silly ones. No one gets my darker ones but me. sigh…oh, well I appreciate your words.

Liked by 2 people

    The great thing is you are writing your poetry and getting it out there for people to read. Good or bad is just a value judgement and you will find plenty of support and a great community on WordPress who will help you along the way. Thank you for your kind words and taking the time to read and comment on the post.

    Liked by 1 person

Haha my goodness this is such a relatable problem. Sometimes when a piece is in the same topic of another I’m so tempted to just make it “(title) Part II” and so on haha to me I feel like the title is important to catch the eye but from experience the title hyped up the content too much and I get disappointed by the content… it’s a bit of a catch 22. But then again I decided to just never judge anything without knowing the whole thing – “never judge a book by its cover”

Liked by 2 people

I find myself usually writing the poem first and I worry about the title. I thinks it’s a nice finish step, however sometimes coming up with the title takes longer than actually writing the poem!

Liked by 2 people

For me the title is everything , i prefer to the point though i Have pending poems because sometimes i can’t really figure what should be the title and thus they are incomplete , i would say title can make it or break it hope it helps!

Liked by 2 people

Have you settled on a title for this yet? Maybe “Church Birdmeeting”

This is another of your very thought provoking questions – a great one! Which comes first, the title or the poem – The Chicken or The Egg?

I think a title matters most of the time. As you say, if you don’t know the poet it acts more like a billboard sign arresting your attention and enticing you to read it. Most times I write first and let the words whisper the best title but then sometimes it’s great to work the other way – title first and then the words. For me it seems to be more of a challenge to write a title and then have the lines live up to the title.

One of my favorite titles is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. For me that title is a magnet drawing you in. The last time I tried to write something from a title was driving down the road and the words “The Wind Whispers” came to me. It worked well that time.

Good luck with your title!

Liked by 2 people

    Thank you the reluctant poet. I look at haiku and senryu which are untitled poems and that seems to work for the style of poetry. I still think the title of a poem should inform or give a clue to the reader. I am still undecided about the title for this piece – maybe it needs to be left untitled?

    Like

Yes, perhaps, but then again maybe it goes back to your question “Is a poem ever finished?”. Maybe this one just needs to age a bit more??

HAPPY NEW YEAR – May your year be filled with a multitude of great new works!

Oh, I have been meaning to ask – are all of your photos and art original or is there a site or two that you use?

Liked by 2 people

Thanks so much! I shared what you do with Cavna.com and others are going to try it! Networking at work.

Liked by 1 person

    Thank you. Do you have a blog or website?

    Liked by 1 person

      Yes, I have a blog. Sort of a gift from my daughter Charmin (https://thereluctantpoetweb.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/the-reluctant-poet/
      I made the comment to her that I wanted to see about writing a book of my poems and she said she could help me get started and told me I should have a blog. Next day I get an email from her with the details of my blog and my first posted poem which is also the title of my blog “The Recluctant Poet”. In the email she said, I want to help you face your fears so I push you, so you can fly??? I have come to appreciate it. Were it not for her actions I would not have had the pleasure of meeting you and enjoying your work so much!!

      If you feel so inclined I would appreciate it if you would review “The Reluctant Poet” on my site. You may then know why I so much enjoyed your post by Jack London and others. It is a description of some of the ways I have come to write a poem that perhaps you and others can relate too?

      I’m new at blogging and need to get a more regular schedule of posting – a New Year’s goal. Thanks for asking!!

      Liked by 1 person

      Thanks for the link. I have followed your blog and look forward to exchanging poetry and views over the coming year.

      Liked by 1 person

When I write a poem, I honestly forget about giving it a title. But when I do remember, I make it short and mysterious. I do this because it will catch the reader’s eye. I also, for some reason really like it when titles are verbs. Weird, huh? Anyways, I really enjoyed this article. You have a great point. It is also very well written. I posted one of my many poems on my blog so far (I just began blogging). I would really appreciate it if you checked it out and gave me feedback. I’m really looking to improve. -Rose24 xxx

Liked by 1 person

It’s a mixture for me too. The process varies. Interesting about the title. Also varies. Sometimes the title adds little (“The Red Wheelbarrow”) and sometimes it frames decisively (“The Second Coming”). My title for your poem is “Bone Omen” πŸ™‚ Gary

Liked by 1 person

Great topic here! I thought I was being liberal with how I title my poems…only to guess there is a science behind it. Like rosemawrites, I worry with the title after I’m done with the piece. It’s a lot difficult to come up with a title that’ll will give justice to you “masterpiece”. It’s brain-wracking.

Liked by 1 person

    Thank you. It would be interesting to see if there is a science behind this. Sometimes the title will come while writing the poem. At other times it may take a while for a title to become apparent. Maybe Shakespeare and the haiku masters have the right idea; numbers and no titles. Thank you for taking time out to add to the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

its in the title! the name is important just like the name we carry. i think i almost always start with a title – usually i am upset or too happy about something and the title is my first scream, but sometimes like you said it may change mid way or at the end, title and first line has to connect or I generally move on and don’t read till the end. nice discussion you started here, and nice to see others styles and quirks.

Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

[…] via Does a Poem’s Title Matter? β€” Inside the Mind of Davy D […]

Liked by 1 person

[…] – DOES A POEMS TITLE MATTER? […]

Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

%d bloggers like this: