One of the most important features in my writing are titles. Titles not only set the tone artistically, but they act as a marketing tool to gain readers who might otherwise overlook a piece. Titles make a story or poem stick out in a lit mag’s table of contents or an anthology’s list. If a person is sifting through a book then a unique or catchy title is a good way to up the odds of getting read. As a reader, I know I’m guilty of flipping to the more interesting titles when looking through a collection in a book store or library, so I can’t expect anyone else to do otherwise.
Titles also act as sign posts directing the readers that writers want. Not every poem has to be for everybody, sometimes I want to write to specific audiences. I’m currently working on a poem entitled “Teacher’s Only” which is a pun on something in my classroom, but also a direct invitation to teachers and educators and a warning that the general reader might not get all the allusions I use or agree with my bias.
I consider titles so important that they’re often the last thing I write. I’ll usually have a poem drafted and then stumble into a title for it later. I saw “Teacher’s Only” written on cabinets that have materials the staff doesn’t want students to use alone. Those two words caught my eye one morning and stayed with me all day. After giving them a little thought, I realized it would be fun to re-apply them to the poem about my experiences as a Teaching Assistant and make the words sound like an inside joke or exclusive club.
Maybe because I enjoy writing children’s poetry I’m a little biased towards clever titles, because in that field I need to be zany and creative to really captivate a young reader’s attention and imagination. Plus, with children’s writing, I have to get a little silly, and not take myself too seriously. I don’t think anything else I write needs to be all that different, at least not when it comes to titles.