Monday, 6 March 2017

What's in a title?

Once I've got a poem to its "first final" draft, i.e. the point at which it moves from my handwritten notebook to a typed-up piece of paper, I often ask a couple of trusted friends for their opinion as a point of departure for the next stage in its development. Last month, I got a terrific comment back. My friend told me "I like the poem, Matthew, but the title's dead".

What did she mean by that? Well, my interpretation is that it wasn't contributing anything, not drawing the reader in, not adding an extra layer. It was there because it had to be, as if labelled "for internal use only". I immediately went back to the poem in question and renegotiated that title, always bearing the reader in mind..

Of course, what goes for an individual piece also goes for the title of a book. Which brings me to the issue in hand: the title of my forthcoming first full collection. What were the criteria? Not dead, as per the previously mentioned poem, memorable but not too wacky, relevant but not just explanatory, intriguing but not plain mysterious. However, most of all, I asked myself a key question: "would you buy a book with that title?"

So what was the result? Well, that's for a separate post...

1 comment:

  1. Dear Matthew

    Talking of titles, the other day I bought 'Jubilee Lines' edited by Carol Ann Duffy, which was a clever play on the Queen's sixtieth jubilee. It wasn't bad but the glaring typo on the first page of the preface probably explains why I was able to purchase it for a pound. If Faber & Faber ever decide to invest in a proofreader, I am available!

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish