Poem Titles

Yes, I’m doing research for an online class on writing your own poems for your own journal. One of the issues that will come up is the title you choose.


Image: Beachchatcat.com

For years, I’ve had book and poem titles run through my head. The Inner Hero book was originally going to be called Magic and Metaphor, but it is now considered smarter to choose a title that explains the concept of the book. Yes, that’s right. But poetry is different.

In the shower, on my morning walk, titles have always appeared. Titles for poems? Titles for books? Poems firs lines? Who knows. Here are some that have silhouetted across my mind:

A Handful of Night

Shutters, Shadows, Shelter

Lift the Moon into the Sky

Teaching the Hawk to Fly

Too-Sweet Sound Bite

Untangle the Sparkline

When you think of the poetry of your life, what line connected to an idea crosses your mind?

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and journaler, writing through the night.


34 thoughts on “Poem Titles

  1. OMG love these title just like wow sooooo awesome. I love the title “A Handful of Night”. uh can I use it for a poem that im writing…its a class project. so please say yes 🙂

  2. Personally,i find myself on this similar journey.when i wrote”Creating The Earthing Actress”i came to the conclusion that this was a huge way to inspire alone!

    By the way.Great names!

  3. Some I have used:
    Scars Within, Scars Without
    Paradise Denied
    Little Ouches
    Into Darkness

    I really like some of the ones on this page. Rhyming ideas are creeping out of the woodwork as I type this.

    PS: Pete – take a breath, man!

  4. I love clever titles, but seem to have difficulty coming up with them myself. Whether it is for poetry (although that seems to be easier for me), blog posts, newsletters, art work titles, class titles, etc. I seem to struggle with them. Perhaps because I am quite practical at heart so I tend to lean toward the obvious and practical names. Of course, most people aren’t really inspired by practicality and respond much better to clever or fun or interesting names. It is a constant struggle for me.

    • Practical people love other practical people. I have practical tendencies myself. It can limit my art (keep your studio clean, it’s easier to clean up a small mess than a large one) but it has advantages, too. Practical poems can be funny and touching, too.

  5. The line ‘poetry of my life’ really captured me. The first “title” or line that ran through my head was “She grew into her own”, neither witty nor clever yet very raw and true.

    I also want to say that when I com here to your space I think you quite possibly have the best commenters, or commentators!

  6. I enjoy reading and writing poetry. Perhaps that is why I appreciate an evocative title, not an immediately obvious one, which catches my interest and sparks a desire to explore the contents. If the powers that be insist on being smart, tell them that’s what subtitles are for.

  7. I write poems, the rhyming kind. But one phrase that has not yet been willing to become a poem is “When I lived on Falling Waters Road. ” I never did live on such a road but visit many.
    My elder son used to say when putting puzzle pieces together…”These pieces rhyme.”

  8. Titles are puzzling things.

    I like writing short and hopefully amusing doggerel, and one of the things I try to do is make it as short as possible (but no shorter). The title is *part* of it, so it should do its part, like this one:


    but hairier.

    (BTW, you could make a good case that the “but” could be taken out. Sometimes I change it to a comma, sometimes I put it back.)

    Other things have titles, or title-like-things, but for reasons that might not make a lot of sense. Or might not make sense any more. Email, for example, assumes every message has a title. Some kinds of messages don’t need titles, and they’re not required, but the system is designed to strongly encourage them.

    Web pages have titles. One issue when designing a browser is whether to follow the convention that the page title is displayed at the very top of the window (where nobody looks). Theoretically it would let you identify which window is which, but it doesn’t work that way for most people. Nevertheless, the title element is deeply embedded in web specifications and isn’t going anywhere.

    Titles are sometimes the same as names. Anybody would understand the question “what’s the name of that book” to be about the title. But a person can have both. Pi and Fibonacci refer to numbers and would be “names” but I can’t think of anything in math that would be called a title.

    It’s also an interesting convention that the title is expected to be shorter than its referent. I once wrote a “short story” where everything but the last sentence (which, typically, was a punchline) was the title. As I recall my teacher claimed that no it wasn’t; after the first sentence or two it automatically became “the story” rather than “the title”. Come to think of it, this may be the root of my curiosity about what titles are, and what, if anything, they’re for.

    • Titles are shortcuts to naming stories or art. They are the names of inanimate objects. Math is different; I don’t often play there, although I suspect you do. A lot. Have you tried Flash Fiction? I bet you’d be a pro.

      • I’m not sure I agree that math is different — or at least not any more different than stories and art.

        Amusing vignette: I read “Flash Fiction” and immediately thought of interactive experiences using Flash development tools.

        Which, by the way…Flash (in the computing sense) is really not very good, but the tools are excellent. This is probably a big reason for its popularity and longevity. Generalizing that idea makes me wonder whether the tools available for working in a particular area might be at least as important than the area itself. Hmmm…

        • The tools and the artist’s use of them is a big discussion point for many artists. I won’t go into it here. But it’s an interesting thing, too. I find math different because I’m not a mathematician. So my perspective is very different than yours. You are a Renaissance Man, I’m sort of a Renaissance girl.

  9. My favorite line is one from my grand daughter. She was only four or five years old at the time she said it. We spent a lot of time outdoors and took time to look at the night sky before going to bed every night.
    As the moon was in it’s waxing (or was it waning?) stage she said “Look, Nana, the moon is melting.”
    We’ve done artwork around the phrase but I have yet to come up with the words to make it a poem.
    That one may just have to stand alone.

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