Titles

I re-read Charles Wright‘s  Appalachia this morning (and Black Zodiac (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998), both excellent) and was struck by — in addition of course to just how good he is, and how the feel of his long lines (in his later books anyway) differs from so many other poets I like, and how deep and meditative the poems feel  — just how fantastic the titles in Appalachia are.

Titles, as a point of craft, can be quite difficult. And a great title does not a great poem make, just as a pedestrian title does not a bad poem make, of course. Mark Doty, Elizabeth Bishop, and Cornelius Eady are wonderful poets, but they won’t be on my favorite titles list, nor many others; they have good titles, that set up and affect the rest of the lines (“Poem” is actually a perfectly fine way to go) but that are unremarkable out of context. Dickinson didn’t title any of hers. But, a great title can be an awfully fun way to start things.

Not every Charles Wright poem has what can be deemed a great title. Black Zodiac for instance has “Poem Almost Wholly in My Own Manner,” which is a quite wonderful setup, but the rest are sort of regular poem titles — “Thinking of Winter at the Beginning of Summer,” “Negatives II,” “Lives of the Saints,” “October 11.”

But Appalachia has,

“Stray Paragraphs in February, Year of the Rat”

“In the Kingdom of the Past, the Brown-Eyed Man is King”

“Landscape as Fate, Landscape as Metaphor and a Happy Life”

“Back Yard Boogie Woogie”

“Autumn’s Sidereal, November’s a Ball and Chain”

Two other Charles Wright titles I like —”Miles Davis and Elizabeth Bishop Fake the Break” and “When You’re Lost in Juarez in the Rain and It’s Easter Time Too

Other favorite titles of mine:

Index of Lawn Bowling or Index of Teenage Intimacy” (Mark Yakich)

“As One Put Drunk Into the Packet Boat” (John Ashberry)

“Making It Big, Standing Back To Be Sure” (Jennifer Boyden)

“Poet Ascending, With Skis and Poles” (Scott Cairns)

“I Am So In Love I Grew A New Hymen” (Sandra Cisneros)

“Antwerp rainy all churches still haunted” (Joshua Clover)

“Verisimilitudinous, Uh” (Michael Earl Craig)

“The Tilt of His Head Makes A Thought Bubble of the Harbor” (Michael Earl Craig)

“Time With Stevie Wonder In It” (Christopher Gilbert)

“Picking Blackberries with a Friend Who Has Been Reading Jacques Lacan” (Robert Hass)

“What the Brand New Freeway Won’t Go By” (Richard Hugo)

“What Thou Lovest Well Remains American” (Richard Hugo)

“Poem Questioning the Existence of the Sea” (Denis Johnson)

“For You, Sweetheart, I’ll Sell Plutonium Reactors” (Yusef Komunyakaa)

“Report From The Skull’s Diorama” (Yusef Komunyakaa)

“Eternally Undismayed Are the Poolshooters” (William Matthews)

“The Coal Bin Imagined From My Grandmother’s Description” (Dennis Schmitz)

“Venus Waning/Apollo Waxing His Car” (Matthew Rohrer)

“How Do You Explain the Matter of Love To A House?” (Matthew Rohrer)

“The Small Owl of Complaint” (Gary Miranda)

The Emperor of Ice-Cream” (Wallace Stevens)

“The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain” (Wallace Stevens)

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour” (Wallace Stevens)

“The Wild Cheese” (James Tate)

Poem to Some of my Recent Poems” (James Tate)

A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London” (Dylan Thomas)

“Ancient Sorrow Sleep Already” (Matthew Zapruder)

“Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples” (Percy Bysse Shelley)

“Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same” (Robert Frost)

For Once, Then, Something” (Robert Frost)

“That the Science of Cartography is Limited” (Eavan Boland)

“Black Rook in Rainy Weather” (Sylvia Plath)

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