Sunday, February 13, 2011

Title Bout

This was taken with a cell phone camera.
Which comes first,the title or the poem?  SometimPublish Postes I like to contrive a striking phrase  that sounds potentially ironic  in contrast to the poem it sits on top of, and  I would dutifully  construct some lines I thought hit all the marks that were spoken of in the string of writing workshops I attended or crashed in college. The preference was and remains a  title that describes s job title or a personification of disgusting habits, ending in "er";  the title might double as  the name of a super hero. Here is something I came across yesterday, written in the early Eighties on an old Underwood 5 typewriter. First came the title, then the poem to illustrate the power and punch of the heading:

Brick Layer

So full of words
that are thick with
abstracted lust
that buildings could be erected
composed of verbose skulls
with windows
that oversee the world
to the edge of  the map
and yet
the love that was
there all the time,
appreciative of curved air,
lost in a  four o'clock shadow.
I 'll pass on defending  the poem; it's awful, it stinks. It's  more an enthused gushing  than a composition ; I am not even sure what it means, and it scares me to attempt an interpretation of how these elements could work together to produce something comprehensible. It occurs to me that I might come up with some matters I'd rather not think about. A therapist might find something  useful in the reading, but not a readers themselves, as  most of  us have better things to do than reconcile an odd title with a smirking block of  private  punch lines.No matter, though, What I remember was becoming momentarily fixed on the idea of writing a title first and then composing a verse to go along with it and decided , finally, that my then-preference for elliptical, vague, surreal and punning verse would only become altogether unintelligible and dull if I continued.
This poem found it's way to the bottom of my desk drawer and remained there for thirty five years , until yesterday, and the lesson, I suppose, is that poetry isn't the sort of assignment writing or occasional writing I can do; like it or not, I am restricted to when the mood hits me, when the muse decides to visit and have a cup of coffee, and after the writing, if the poem has any merit, it gets fitted for a title.

The trend is for poets to name poets with phrases that have virtually nothing to do with the subjects the poem actually take on. The trend is also to write poems where each line is suitable for a title; this gives the reader an interesting mixture of captivating indirection or smashingly inane cliches and truisms. Titles should read like description of the last thing in this world you expect to see before you die and cease caring about poetry or the braying arrogance of the boneheaded and tin-eared.