Sunday, July 24, 2005

[Wolf Whistle] Niiice Title -- Where Did You Find It?

Where did you get the title for your book/ms?


Stuart Greenhouse said...

Are you asking in general? I don't remember how I arrived at "What Remains", but I remember thinking much about it once I had it. In 1999, it was my thesis title, I think I intended it as a late-late-late romantic kind of thing (as in, 'what remains of this way of writing which is no longer au courant but is how I want to write'). It occurs in Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations . . .", and also in Pounds Cantos (the famousest one, "What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross . . ."). It has a spiritual resonance, I think, and fits with certain personally-held though difficult-to-articulate beliefs on the way time interacts with perception.

I've also considered "Home" and "Entrance".

Enough? What about you?

Emily Lloyd said...

Oh, I was bad: I took the title from a love letter written to me by an ex (also a poet)--an insomniac who used to stay up all night watching surgery on TV. She wrote once, "In a few weeks I'll be able to perform the most daring of transplants." The chapbook (which, by the way, I do NOT recommend [grin]): The Most Daring of Transplants.

Patty said...

What a great question!

The chapbook title: Elegy & Collapse reflects content. Many of the poems in the chap are elegiac, for my mother who died 6 years ago. The rest seemed to revolve around the ruin of my family, and metaphorical collapse of our home.

The ms title: Oracle Bones started with an interest in Korean pottery (my mother is Korean.) This led to an interest in Chinese pottery, where I disovered that ancient Shang Dynasty vessels sometimes held oracle bones. The bones were inscribed with what is believed to be the earliest example of Chinese writing. The inscriptions were primarily used for divination, and keeping records of events that happened in the late Shang Dynasty (1300 BC - 1046 BC). I liked the sound and meaning of oracle bones, so for now anyway, it's the title.

Anonymous said...

ms...a quote by patsy cline

Suzanne said...

'what remains of this way of writing which is no longer au courant but is how I want to write'

I loved this. And "What Remains," is a great title, too. "Spring Tide," was pulled from one of the pivotal poems in the collection--there was another title in the running, but I can't remember it now--I do remember that it was changed at the very last minute. Spring Tide ties in with the central themes of the collection too, renewal and water.

Em! You're so funny--that's not stealing, that's finding inspiration in unlikely places. :-)

These are *great* answers! I loved the little history on Oracle Bones--fascinating! and like very much how you tied the themes with your title in the chapbook.

I *think* I've finally found an ms title that I will like longer than 6 months. It's not pulled from a poem, but it definitely gathers the collection together..we'll see.

Here's a little trivia to reciprocate:

Spring tides are especially strong tides (they do not have anything to do with the season Spring). They occur when the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon are in a line. The gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun both contribute to the tides. Spring tides occur during the full moon and the new moon.

Not quite as exciting as yours, eh? *lol*

I *heart* Patsy Cline. One of my favorite quotes is by another woman that I *heart*: Ava Gardner. She said, "Honey, when I lose my temper...I can't find it anywhere."


Stuart Greenhouse said...

Followup: I remember the emotional origin, too, now, which was a sense of grief at seeing oneself grow up and lose what one thought were integral parts of oneself--what any adult knows as change, but a child's consciousness doesn't have that sense of range-of-time, so it's hard to differentiate between "me" and "me-now." So, when it (a child's consciousness, that is) sees me-now change into the past, it feels as if me is changing into the past (i.e. dying), and holds onto what it can for a sense of permanence (i.e. living).

So I think the title was my way of coming to terms with self-change, shorthand version.

It's a lot easier to respond to questions than it is to post out of thin air!

Suzanne: Spring Tide is a great title, evocative. When we lived on Puget Sound, I remember the Spring tide being very exciting, you could walk out on the mudflats and see all sorts of bizarre crabs and starfish and seaworms--really cool stuff, otherworldly. When is your chapbook due to arrive, btw?

marybid said...

I'm so bad with titles. Sometimes I put off revising entire poems because I dread working on titles. When titling manuscripts I have looked back at the poems and found embedded phrases that I liked. The book ms I'm obsessively peddling right now is called The Way of the Hand. I didn't even notice the whole "The Way of the Cross" allusion until later. Thank you, Sister Mary Rita.

What a fascinating topic, Suzanne!

Simmons B. Buntin said...

[em]Riverfall[/em] is a word I use in a few poems in the book, and most significantly I suppose in the first and last poems, the first being "A Body of Water" and the last "Coming Into Premeditated Light," their placement based on the thought of being born of water and dying by going into light. Riverfall was first used in the first poem, as a more descriptive (and hopefully more powerful, literally) alternative to "waterfall." Very early, really quite pre-manuscript, I played around with a couple different titles--[em]An Idea of Geography[/em]; [em]Zoology[/em]---but those are not quite comprehensive enough, too scientific, just not fitting. [em]Riverfall[/em] seemed right, and the publisher liked the title right from the get-go, too.

Maya said...

My working ms title, One Long Pair of Eyes, is from a Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians song...Suzanne, you mentioned the origins of Spring Tide...what about Red Paper Flower? (I love that)

A. D. said...

Hey Marybad,
I'm reminded moreso of bushido, kendo, and tae kwon do—roughly translated, meaning 'way of the warrior', 'way of the sword', and 'way of the fist and foot' respectively. Other martial arts are named similarly.

Of course in do or tao, 'way' is for the most part synonymous with 'art'. Thus we have the 'art of the warrior' or in your case the 'art of the hand'.

Suzanne said...

It's so interesting to hear these responses. I hope you'll be up to swap when the time comes. I'm eager to read, "What Remains." Thanks for the compliment on my title, too. They're working on the final galleys now and anticpate that it will be released in the fall, but I don't have a final date yet. I'm a little less eager for the reading and book signing knowing that I'll have a newborn then. *lol*

Hey Mary! Thanks for chiming in, the peddling hasn't gotten obsessive yet (for me)I've just started the contest madness, but I can see OCD on the horizon. That's a cool title you've got there btw.

Simmons, Riverfall suits your collection well, I remember thinking that when I read it and that it was a lovely title, too. :-)

Maya, nice title! Thanks for stopping by. Red Paper Flower has a bit of history to it--the poems in that collection were culled as 'the best' of an earlier full-length ms that had been accepted for publication, only to have press fold. The poems in the chapbook are about being a woman (mother, sister, daughter, wife) and I wanted a title that indicated strength and vulnerablity. I had a eureka moment one day with the title and it really helped me hone the collection and send it out. So that's the scoop there.

Wow I've really enjoyed reading of all your answers--thanks, everyone!

Radish King said...

I stole Tarantella from a poem by me. I also stole Radish King from a poem by me, and I've stolen the title for my 3rd book from a poem by me.

Suzanne said...


Suzanne said...

You would think that I would preview my comments before posting, sorry for all the typos. (yikes)

Rebecca, I just knew you stole those titles from somewhere. ;-)

Anne Haines said...

I have a chapbook ms. called "Breach" which came from the title of a prosepoem that isn't in the ms. anymore -- but a lot of the poems in it are about boundaries, borders, and the permeability of same, so "breach" in the sense of breaching a boundary -- as well as the image of a whale breaching, which comes up in a couple of poems -- still seems to fit.

Matthew Thorburn said...

Hi Suzanne,
This is such an interesting question -- I had fun reading everyone's responses.

My book's title came from my MFA thesis, which it grew out of. The thesis/book got its name when I shared my initial working title with my thesis advisor and several of my classmates. Seeing their lukewarm reactions to that working title, I added, “Of course, that’s subject to change.” The advisor instantly said, "Now, THAT is a good title!" -- at least half jokingly, I think, but it stuck.

The new manuscript I'm sending to contests, Like Luck, has no story to match that. In this case, the title is a phrase from one of the poems that seems (to me, anyway) to speak to the mood/motives of a lot of the poems in the ms.

Matthew Thorburn said...

Sorry, I ought to know better and "preview" my comments too before I post them. I didn't quite finish the story and tell you my book is, in fact, called Subject to Change.

Must be the heat....

Stuart Greenhouse said...

I'd love to, mine'll be in hand early December (by 12/1, that's when the reading is).

Anonymous said...

I'm a distant cousin of Ava Gardner, from my NC Gardner relatives. :)

Simmons B. Buntin said...

And of course nowadays, you gotta check to see if your title is available in a good URL:, etc.

marybid said...

A.D.--thanks so much! I love knowing there's another dimension to the title. This may be subliminal too (close pals with a martial arts guy years back). I really appreciate your comment!

MQT--I have major title envy!

Suzanne--Great topic! :)

Suzanne said...

Anne, "Breach," is a good one! It accomplishes a lot and very succinctly.

I remember getting such a kick out of Subject to Change, when I first came across a mention of your book. I got it right away and thought, "Damn! That's a great title. *lol* I'm so glad you enjoyed this thread as much as I have. Like Luck is good one too.

All of you are giving me title envy. ;-)

Yippeee, Stuart!! I can't wait. :-)

Jilly, that's so cool! In my book that's a claim to fame. :-)

Thanks, All!

shanna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shanna said...

Loving all these stories. :)

Opal Memos Nonchalant (a chapbook I did with Shannon Holman & Jeffrey Salane) is an anagram of our last names.

Big Confetti (a chapbook I did with Shafer Hall) came to Shafer as he was sweeping the sidewalk one Sunday morning last spring in front of the Four-Faced Liar (where he works). There were trees with little white flowers along the street and the wind was blowing their petals around. I happened to look out the window (I was sitting across the street having lunch before heading over to the bar for the Frequency reading) and see Shafer looking at the flower petals at the exact moment he thought "they look like big confetti." So it was his idea, but I witnessed the lightbulb moment. Perfect.

Down Spooky (a chapbook that grew into the full-length book) is a phrase from a story my brother-in-law was telling my husband after Thanksgiving dinner in 2003. "Spooky" was their childhood nickname for a creepy street in their Texas hometown. I was half-listening from the other room (where I was actually working on the chapbook) and the phrase just popped out at me each time he said it. Since many of the poems in the chapbook were related to Texas, it seemed to fit. And I liked that it "sounded Southern" and had intrigue built into it for a reader not privy to the backstory. The longer manuscript was originally called something else (Miracle Fortune Fish--after those plastic toys that curl in your palm), but after it was accepted I changed it to Down Spooky.

Suzanne said...

Shanna, what great title stories! Thanks for stopping by, :-)