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?).


Blogger Victor Schnickelfritz said...

I think this poem is one that effortlessly glides to its end so that the patented Buchanian line poised to give pause does a disservice. The line I am referring to is "possessive in retrospect." I love the syncopation of that line, so I know it's hard to give it up for the sonic kick in the pants it provides. I just think that the imagery and logic of the situation dictate its removal.

I don't have a problem hearkening back to a time and place that goes largely unmentioned. I think that the childhood town is territory that is well-worn enough that the place becomes universal without mentioning it specifically.

It's hard to comment on whether it would work as a title piece without seeing the rest of te pieces.

I am always cautious about books of poems that tread upon the domestic themes as their only outlet. I don't always get the warm and fuzzies reading about others' parenting triumphs and tragedies.

I might suggest a whole book of poems about Hart Crane's childhood.

10:37 PM  
Blogger ~Larry Star~ said...

"...and want something that sounds more active (or at least gerundive) than "The Miracle Shirker".

I love the concept of gerundive titles - coupling that with yours, how about, "Shirking Miracles?" Just a thought.

Selling Home is a good title, too, but given I don't know the overall flavor of the book, a title with the word "Miracle" in it may pique one's interest in the book more. (There is also the fact that I have no idea what I am talking about.)

Keep on bloggin'.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Brad said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Larry.

However, I'm afraid it's a fait accompli: "The Miracle Shirker" was published a while back; I'd be glad to send you a copy if you're interested. Just shoot me your snail mail address at

yours, Brad

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Brad said...

whoops. make that

9:53 PM  

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