On Finding a Title

Since Carey McHugh’s visit, I have been thinking about how she titles her poems. This entire semester, I have had difficulty titling my own poems. I like that Carey included where she got her poem titlesĀ in the back of American Gramophone.

Earlier, I posted about phrases I like in other languages, but I think English phrases are equally inspiring. I see English phrases as potential titles or first lines for poems, and have found a nice master list of phrases on Wikipedia. I hope I can use more of these phrases in the future for a title or a jumping off point!

Opposite to Carey, however, I usually write the poem first and then find a title for it. This seems backward, but I think it works for me. If I start with a title and then write, the poem rarely relates to the title by the time I am finished.

Where to you get your titles from? Do you choose a title or write first?

One Reply to “On Finding a Title”

  1. My titles are usually the central focus or crux of my poems. I like to be very abstract in the body of my poems so that, without leading the reader with the title, they can reach multiple interpretations. I want my poems to speak to more than my own experiences, and I often feel that my titles lead the reader on to make a particular conclusion about the narrative of the poem.
    I really like looking at road signs and places for titles. I recently wrote a pretty dense poem about living in rural poverty, and I used the name of a small road back home as my title. I think I want to write a series of poems about rural, Upstate New York life using road names as titles, actually, so Google Maps is always a cool place to look.

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