Previous Entry | Next Entry



Welcome to another installment of Write After Reading: Writing the Life Poetic, a  weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura's blog. Last week, over at Laura's blog, we talked about chapter 43 and played with another Mad Lib sort of exercise. Today I picked chapter 48, Writing Poems From Titles.

There's not a lot to read here because the fun is all in the writing. :) The chapter talks about how titles for poems can come before the poem is written, after it is written, or changed somewhere in-between. But for this exercise she gives what she calls a book of matches with a list of titles of poems by mostly contemporary poets. The idea is to write a poem based just on the title (hopefully a poem you don't know) and then go find the original and see how it compares. She gives a list of 33 poems. For those of you who don't have a copy of the book, I'll post a few of the titles for you.

But before that, I'd like to talk a bit more about titles for poems and how you perhaps come up with your titles. I almost always title my poems after they are written when I am pretty sure I have reached the point I was trying to make with the poem. Though there have been a few where I got the title and it just spoke to me and I had to write a poem to live up to the title. I'm not sure how I feel about poems where the title is actually the first line in the poem. Quite often it confuses me. I read the title and I set it apart in my mind. Then I read the first line and I'm confused and my brain has to process that method the poet is using and I have to go back and start over. It all happens very fast but sometimes it can be distracting to me. The exception (for me) is usually when it is a verse novel and the author is using the same pattern throughout the book. My brain gets used to it and it seems less distracting.

So what about you?  When do you title your poems? Do you use a line from the poem? How do you know when you have the right title for a poem? (For me it's all about going with my gut.)


I'll post some of titles for folks now and will be back later to add my poem in the comments.


The Zero at the Bone (Karen Holmberg)
The Partial Explanation (Charles Simic)
Good People (WS Merwin)
What the Angels Left (Marie Howe)
Give the Drummer Some (Christopher Luna)
Key to the Highway (Mark Halliday)
Ladies and Gentlement in Outer Space (Ron Padgett)
The Blue Bowl (Jane Kenyon)


Added my poem to the comments. I have to say that this one surprised me in a way that a poem hadn't surprised me in a long time.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.



Comments

( 69 comments — Leave comment )
laurasalas
June 1st, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
Titles. Oi.

I usually come up with my titles after writing the poem. I try not to use a phrase directly from the poem, usually. Not because it's a bad thing but because I tend to do it out of laziness rather than a feeling that that phrase captures the heart of the poem. I'm also guilty of a lot of boring titles like The __________ (insert just about any noun there).

I think I avoid working on titles because I feel like I'm bad at it. This is something I need to work on, because when I DO work on it, my titles at least improve. They might not be magical, but they're better. So there's just no excuse.

Here's a column I wrote for my site about titling your poems:

http://www.laurasalas.com/poetry/poetic%20pursuits/0712ttl1.html

I'm going to write a brief poem to one of the titles now. Should be fun!

Edited at 2011-06-01 05:31 pm (UTC)
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
I love coming up with the perfect title but it isn't easy and sometimes they never quite come. This goes for novels too. And I feel disconnected from the project until I have what I feel is the perfect title.

I am guilty of the boring titles too.

I often think of titles as capturing the essence of the poetic moment and that's not any easier than writing the poem in the first place.

Thanks for the link to your article. I'll go give it a read.
(no subject) - laurasalas - June 1st, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 1st, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - laurasalas - June 5th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC) - Expand
laurasalas
June 1st, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
Laura's Poem -- The Zero at the Bone
OK, I'm back!

The Zero at the Bone

There is no grey area here
Not even black and white
Only truth

Lies have been
Scalpeled, scapulaed, shaved
Away, buried until
Cloud-white bone
Fills the sky of your eyes

Only truth
Rolls out of our mouths
In these last moments

Only truth
Shaking like thunderclouds
Falling like raintears

Only truth as the
Drum beats more
Slowly and
More slowly
Still

Until the beat stops

Until even
Truth
Stops

Time
Stops

And you are gone

--Laura Purdie Salas

OK, you know what I loved about this? Because I went into it blind, I didn't have any story, so I was more open to writing a bit less literally than I usually do. I actually loved this exercise. Off to hunt down the real poem now:>)

Thanks, susan!
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Laura's Poem -- The Zero at the Bone
This is terrific, Laura. The shape of it feels like a rain cloud or a tornado or even raindrops.

I love these stanzas best:

Lies have been
Scalpeled, scapulaed, shaved
Away, buried until
Cloud-white bone
Fills the sky of your eyes


Only truth
Shaking like thunderclouds
Falling like raintears


It was a really fun exercise. I might have to try another one.
Re: Laura's Poem -- The Zero at the Bone - laurasalas - June 1st, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Laura's Poem -- The Zero at the Bone - laurasalas - June 3rd, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Laura's Poem -- The Zero at the Bone - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Laura's Poem -- The Zero at the Bone - laurasalas - June 5th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
laurasalas
June 1st, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
Oh my!
Karen Holmberg had an entirely different bone in mind;>)
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh my!
Hahaha...I haven't been able to find hers. You'll have to send me the link.
Re: Oh my! - laurasalas - June 1st, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Oh my! - susanwrites - June 1st, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Oh my! - mariannenielsen - June 2nd, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Oh my! - laurasalas - June 3rd, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Oh my! - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
d_michiko_f
June 1st, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
RE: Titles
I don't write poetry so I can't directly respond, but I do have similar issues with titles for my stories. Sometimes I get a title first and love it and then create a story from me, and other times the title comes very last (or from a good friend/writing partner).

btw - when we lunched last, you mentioned a poetry exercise that I found intriguing but now i can't recall it. Can you help me? ;)
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
Hey Debbi, I think this is the one I was talking about, it was at Laura's blog last week:
http://laurasalas.livejournal.com/276727.html If that wasn't it I'll have to ponder it some more.

For novels I REALLY prefer to have the title first. I hate waiting for it because I feel no connection to the story without the title.
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
Okay, here's my poem. I picked the title last night and was really expecting to write a softish poem perhaps based in nature. What came out is something completely different.



How to Listen

Put down that stinky cigarette,
the one you promised to stop smoking.
Quit fiddling with the piano
and no, you don't need another drink.
You never need another drink.

Pretend if you have to
you're at work,
inspection time,
uniform neatly pressed,
just like all those lies you told me.

Eyes straight ahead.
Must. Not. Move.

Look at me, no, really look at me
in the eyes, those windows to my soul
you tried to crush.
I know I'm angry.
I want you to know it too.
I want you to hear what I'm saying
with my entire body.

I may not get this brave again.

Don't look down
or away with that
"you just kicked a puppy" expression on your face.
It doesn't work any more.

Focus on me,
the way you used to focus on me,
before vodka became your lover.

That pause between words
isn't an invitation for you to interrupt and tell me
how the world is against you.
I don't care.
Not anymore.

You don't have to listen long.
Just long enough
for me to say goodbye.


© 2011 Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.



The original poem is How to Listen by Major Jackson and you can read it here:
http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/172.html
laurasalas
June 1st, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Wow, you struck gold this week, Susan!

Focus on me,
the way you used to focus on me,
before vodka became your lover.

AND

You don't have to listen long.
Just long enough
for me to say goodbye.

are my favorite two stanzas. They really pack a major punch. I was really rooting for the narrator to find her voice, stay strong...loved this!
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 1st, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 5th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC) - Expand
d_michiko_f
June 1st, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
wow. just, wow.
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 1st, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
mariannenielsen
June 2nd, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Susan, what a lovely poem...I can tell it's from the heart. I loved the last stanza...it shows such strength.
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 3rd, 2011 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
June 1st, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
I believe a good title can add meaning to a poem or story by summarizing or adding additional insight. Also, titles can invite readers by way of explanation. For example: Death, Young Death, Death of a Rose, etc. Expectations of what the poem might be about vary with these titles.

As for haiku, I’ve read that if they need a title, then the haiku is not properly done. Full meaning should be achieved without a title.

My least favorite title is a line of the poem because I want something more from the words that introduce it. And yet, here’s my poem, and the title became the first line. Before you read on, I admit my poem is not very poetic. Actually not at all poetic as yours both beautifully were. I love speculative poetry, which we could call this by subject matter, but not really style. My favorite speculative poems speak to the Sci-Fi nut in me AND are poetic.

Rushing just now. Later I’ve got to go see what this poem was really about. What a fun exercise!



Ladies and Gentlemen of Space



Ladies and Gentlemen
of Space
Greetings from the people
of Earth –
third planet circling Sol.

Transmission of our invitation
to the Galactic Gala
has not yet been received.

With the event
only two light years away,
please confirm Earth’s invitation
at the earliest convenience
of the Intergalactic
Planning Committee.

Please disregard
if our messages
crossed in hyperspace.

Sincerely,
The People of Earth

Transmission over.



-ellie
(Anonymous)
June 1st, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
That's fun, Ellie! Very imaginative. I didn't know those kinds of poems were called "speculative poetry," but I guess I have been writing those myself!
Tabatha
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - June 2nd, 2011 12:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - June 2nd, 2011 04:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - June 2nd, 2011 12:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
Ellie,
Don't worry about getting the title slightly off. I think it all still works. :)

Your poems always create pictures in my mind. I love that!

I liked:

Transmission of our invitation
to the Galactic Gala
has not yet been received.


and have been trying to picture what that invitation might look like. Ha!

Also liked:
Please disregard
if our messages
crossed in hyperspace.


You could do a series of speculative poems all around that Galactic Gala.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - June 2nd, 2011 12:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
ellie,

I think you're right that the title for a poem sets up expectations and that's something for the writer to keep in mind when they choose a title. You can somewhat point the read in a particular direction based on the title alone.

And interesting point on the haiku. I can see that, perhaps agree with it, though sometimes there is fun in putting a title on one and getting that extra "free space" to say something more. But that probably proves the point that haiku may not have been written correctly. :)
laurasalas
June 2nd, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this, Ellie! So funny! I love that it's speculative, and yet because we've all received these kinds of form letters, it instantly feels very familiar.

I especially love

With the event
only two light years away,


Ha!

and

at the earliest convenience
of the Intergalactic
Planning Committee.


made me think of a PTA/PTO event or something.

This is just too funny!

I don't think there's such a thing as poetic. Lyrical, yes. But I think your poem is every bit as poetic in the poemlike sense as mine or Susan's. Just a different kind of poem--funny and hip--rather than emotional. I tend to like that better and have been surprised that more emotion-based poems have been springing from my keyboard the past few weeks!

Interesting about haiku. I know they're not usually titled, but I have to say it's the one thing I DON'T like about haiku. With any one individual haiku, the lack of title doesn't bother me. But in a collection, I want a way to distinguish them, order them, talk about them. At that point, I always wish they had titles. I know I can just use the first lines, but it's not the same:>)

--Laura
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 3rd, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariannenielsen - June 3rd, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 6th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
June 1st, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
That's what I get for rushing. Got the title wrong (not the meaning, definitely the wording). My face is red in case you can't see it.

So now I have read the poem that goes with this title, an interesting poem, but I am left puzzling how the poet came up with the title.

Hmmm. On to other things.

Laura and Susan, to me, this exercise really let your talent shine, when you were free to create from title down without a form to follow.

Laura, from yours I love this verse and the use of “rolls” as if one is not in control, perhaps.

Only truth
Rolls out of our mouths
In these last moments

Also love “raintears” and how your ending slows, slows until your last four syllable sentence, so short and final.

And Susan, I love the anger, rage and foot stomping of LISTEN TO ME, a pet peeve of mine.

Your introduction floods us with bad habits, and wonder as to why “You never need another drink.”

Love this:
That pause between words
isn't an invitation for you to interrupt and tell me
how the world is against you.
I don't care.
Not anymore.

so much rides on “Not anymore.” Great ending.

I love how both of you flooded your poems with emotion: one anger, and one more sorrow or resignation. Wow!

ellie
susanwrites
June 1st, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
Ellie,
I just read the poem that goes with your title (http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/117.html) and I'm with you...I have no idea where the title came from. I don't "get" that poem at all.

Thanks for the kind words on my poem. This prompt really ignited for me.
(no subject) - laurasalas - June 2nd, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
June 2nd, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
Okay, I like kid poetry- so mine is kid oriented. And this is what I came up with.

The Sun Never Says

Dark clouds hang there
up in the air.
Does that mean it will rain?

The sun's there, too,
in sky that's blue.
Will somebody explain

what kind of weather
brings both together?
But I just ask in vain.

Cindyb

I'm sure it isn't anything like the original!


(Anonymous)
June 2nd, 2011 02:02 am (UTC)
Well, I looked it up, and they are both short! I like the original- I understand it!

:) Cindyb
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 2nd, 2011 04:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - June 2nd, 2011 12:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - laurasalas - June 2nd, 2011 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariannenielsen - June 3rd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
mariannenielsen
June 2nd, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Hope I'm not too late to join in...when it comes to titles they usually just pop into my head and then I write something to match it, and usually the title is not in my poem. Then there are the times when I write something and I am in search of a title and that is often a real struggle for me because I want it to have meaning without using a line from the poem.

Unless it's a repeated line in a poem then I will sometimes use that line.

I have chosen the title What the Angels Left...haven't read the original yet.

What The Angels Left

feathers float
upon the clouds,

torrential tears
puddle the ground,

soothing souls
in wing-wrapped hugs

Angels appear
when in need.



tingling thoughts
sprinkle the day,

smiling steps
smooth the way,

grateful gifts
enter the heart


Angels leave
til next in need.

laurasalas
June 3rd, 2011 12:13 pm (UTC)
First off, not too late at all! We're happy to keep the conversation going all the way until next Wednesday (or more, if people pop in later). It often takes folks a couple of days to get to the exercise, and that's no problem at all!

Marianne, this is simply beautiful. I think you did a great job with this. I love the images of angels shedding feathers that float around the clouds, of angels crying rain...that first half is so sensory!

And then I really enjoyed the idea that they comfort a person and then disappear, but with the lovely ending that they'll be there the next time you need them. Delicious!

I am so intrigued that you often think of the title first! Do you jot down title ideas and keep them somewhere? Or do you only use the title if you write a poem to it fairly immediately?
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 3rd, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariannenielsen - June 3rd, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
ellie - (Anonymous) - June 4th, 2011 09:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: ellie - mariannenielsen - June 5th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorireads - June 4th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariannenielsen - June 5th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - June 6th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
dorireads
June 6th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
Finally getting to the poem. I'm not especially pleased with it, but I'm determined to come to the party. No matter how late. And I haven't looked this one up to see the original yet.

Give the Drummer Some

Credit
for the foot-tapping
hand-slapping
belly-laughing
stomp

Give him
a plexi-glass cage,
a towel wad to stuff in the bass
to damp the vibrating vertebrae

Give him cudos
for the corners of tissues
torn and rolled
into tight rounds
stuffed in each ear
to save the thin snare head
from wicked waves of sound.

laurasalas
June 6th, 2011 01:31 pm (UTC)
Give Dori Some
credit for a very cool poem:>)

So glad you came to the party with your poetry hostess gift! And you're not late at all. This is just an ongoing discussion, and it can take a few days to digest and respond to the chapter--that's no problem.

First, I love how you used the title. That's awesome. I was intrigued by that title, too, but I couldn't figure out where to go with it. I love how you're praising the drummer and his drummer routines. I also really like how you start big, with what the drummer is creating in the whole room or party or whatever, and then you go smaller with what's right around the drummer and his little cage, and then smaller still, to the drummer's body. Awesome structure.

My favorite lines are

to damp the vibrating vertebrae

and

to save the thin snare head
from wicked waves of sound.

You achieved some really terrific moments in this poem, Dori.

I was thinking, just throwing this out there, that coming back to that title at the ending somehow might be a fun way to bring it full circle (and what a nice shape for a drumming poem)...

Way to go!
Re: Give Dori Some - susanwrites - June 6th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Give Dori Some - dorireads - June 6th, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Give Dori Some - dorireads - June 6th, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Give Dori Some - laurasalas - June 7th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC) - Expand
( 69 comments — Leave comment )
WHO AM I?



Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.






Susan Taylor Brown

Create Your Badge




Latest Month

September 2014
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
151617181920
21222324252627
282930    

"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
--Bonnie Friedman

"As writers, we must be willing to feel our sadness, our anger, our terror, so we can reach in and find our sweet vulnerability that is just sitting there waiting for us to come back home."
--Nancy Slonim Aronie

"Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is."
--Anne Rice

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by carriep63