What’s In A Name?

title imagesFor poets, this phrase should be “What’s In a Title?” Poems, usually being compact expressions of a single idea, often need a title that adds to the overall thought, either adding meaning, content, clarification or setting the scene. One example of the latter is “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes.” Sure, you see “Sonnet VIII” or other generalizations. Also titles sometime are simply the first line of the work, e.g. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Then there are the titles that are perfect, yet odd, as in “This Be the Verse” which doesn’t give a clue about what is to follow. In general, most poets craft the titles of their works as carefully as the poems themselves.
blue pencilSo I was both happy and dismayed when I got an acceptance for a sonnet, but with a note that the editor wanted to change the title. Yikes! I immediately began drafting in my mind a rebuttal that would show why the original title had to stay. The next day, I re-read the poem. I realized that the theme that I had wanted to convey with the title, I had not really carried through in the rest of the poem. The title turned out to be a distraction, rather than a useful adjunct to what was still a good poem. I realized that the new title in fact made the poem more accessible. This editor, like most, knew her audience, and had vetted thousands of poems. She was right and I sent off an email letting her know. As in so many cases before, skilled editors have been invaluable in improving my work.

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About Lida Bushloper

writer and poet
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