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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.


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.


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

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
June 2nd, 2011 04:47 am (UTC)
I like your poem, Cindy, especially the line

"will somebody explain" because really, don't we all want someone to explain the weather to us sometimes? :)

I like (and understand) the original too. :)

June 2nd, 2011 12:38 pm (UTC)
I love the way you've set up your rhyme, Cindyb. So easy to read this over and over. And no, the sun never says, like why my area is in such a drought.

June 3rd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Cindy, I like your poem and I think kids would love it too because they are always asking questions and this poem would feed into their curiosity...the title fits it perfectly...
June 4th, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
I love the rhyme scheme on this. And the play on weather vane in the last stanza. Nice.

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

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"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."
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