On Titles

“On Titles” Title Card, 20 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

To indulge my need for minimalism (something one would never guess from these verbose posts), simplicity and consistency, I thought to limit all the poem titles within the collection to no more than two words; but glancing through the list, it soon became clear that it was a fool’s errand—for whilst one or two-word titles suit some poems, their brevity adds nothing to others; I had to abandon the idea.

I was forced to admit the obvious: that there are instances where a longer title brings to a poem a necessary colour or meaning. The best example is “Of a Summertime” for nostalgic glimpses from childhood that “Summertime” fails to evoke. (Some instances are thematically more uncertain: is “A Crane at Eventide” more evocative than “A Crane”, or “The Last Time I Saw Fireflies” more wistful than “Fireflies”?)

Ultimately, beyond its pragmatic function, a title must encapsulate and, where necessary, complete a poem—or not exist at all (which, in my view, is preferable to the spineless, spiritless and evasive “Untitled”—a “title” I only accept in exceptional cases—but I digress). Happily, these are decisions I can make poem by poem; and my guiding principle remains: that the barest minimum is preferable.

Poetry Publication Progress (2019-09-24)

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