My poem yesterday, “Still Life with Lit Dynamite,” got me thinking about the importance of titles. I was thinking about how dependent that poem is on the title. I started wondering, what percentage of a work’s overall meaning does a title carry?
Naming a project always helps me to begin it (it seems attached to the same reason that I love a good theme). For instance, the local reading series that I run is called “Paging Columbus.” It goes beyond my love of the pun--finding precise words to describe my intentions makes me feel more creative.
My blog is another example. The idea for it came after staring at The Sartorialist’s site (repeatedly, for many hours!). The word “story” came to my mind while I was imagining backstories for the people in his photos. It was funny....I remember thinking that a poetry companion site to The Sartorialist called The Storialist was so OBVIOUS. I googled a bit to see if anyone else had created that already (what a strange thought, in retrospect!).
I don’t always title my poems before writing them. Sometimes, I think of the title after (usually, it’s that feeling that I mentioned before--that the title is so obvious to me, is so clear). But I am always curious about those artists who do not title their pieces (although “Untitled” can be a title, I guess). The funniest is “Untitled” with a very specific parenthetical after it....like “Untitled” (Queen of the Jellybeans) or “Untitled” (after Oscar the Grouch).
Let me ask you: how do titles function in your creative projects? When, in your process, do you decide upon them? How do you know the right title? What makes a good title? (Feel free to link to your work.)