Sunday, October 01, 2006

Title Poem?

It's that time of year again (I just got Poet's Market 2007), so I'm putting together a book-length collection of poems just in case I want to wast $300 on poetry contests this Fall and Winter (after taking last year off).

I've been struggling with titles for this very optimistically projected volume, and want something that sounds more active (or at least gerundive) than "The Miracle Shirker". So I've gone from "Drowning by Letters" (too cute for its own good, perhaps) to "Swimming the Mirror" (too obscurely narcissistic) to "Selling Home." This latest candidate is still my favorite, partly for its simplicity, and I think the poem to which it as attached is pretty important to the volume itself.

Here's the poem:

Selling Home

Cut your losses as short as you can:
the tiny place you grew up in
was gone long before it was disowned.
You sold it out by knowing better,
by leaving town, by living larger
than its little rules had room for,
by getting bored with the games it hid
in child-sized cupboards. The thin plywood
basement ceilings barely withstood
the fits of toy wars thrown for friends,
the force-fed parties, the odd cake-stains
on the walls, that hardened just like sins
or cynicism, till your parents noticed,
cleaned them up, and blamed adolescence.
They were only yours while you took
them all for granted. Still, an ache,
possessiveness in retrospect,
a hunger for the unreal estate
of youth, soon forms a second thought
after the small property is bought
by some new family starting up
the narrow path to the threshold of hope,
their plans so tall they forget to stoop.

So, what's the verdict? Too poignant? Too nebulously nostalgic? Does the title seem like it could carry a whole book on these same themes (childhood, growing up, having kids)?

More broadly, what are some exceptionally good titles for books of poems you've encountered lately? I'm still partial to "Hello Serotonin," Jon Paul Fiorentino's book (mentioned in the 8/01/06 entry here ("Doomed Fan Letters"). That title grabbed me and the book didn't relinquish its hold for a while.

I've also always loved Hart Crane's "White Buildings." Elegant, with a touch of textual self-consciousness (what are poems but buildings on a white page?).