Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Title Snark: A Brief Taxonomy

I'm at a couple of friends' apartment right now, and boy do these two have a lot of poetry on their shelves. I wanted to try to sneak in some quick snark while I'm on the road, but since I don't have time to actually read some of these (almost certainly awful) books of poetry, I thought that I would engage in some of that ever-popular past-time--judging books by their cover (or at least their titles). So I've composed this list for your snarking pleasure. Check it out, and then add your own "title snark" to the list in the comments section.

The pretentious one-word title. Everybody's favorite poetry-Diva, J.G., is the great abuser of this type of title. Examples: Materialism, Swarm, Never, etc... But it's a very popular mode of poetry titling: think of a vague, one-word abstraction and let it ride! Worst example on the bookshelf here? John Ciardi's Echoes.

The unintentionally honest title. Plenty of example for this one, like Distracted by Jalal Toufic. But the best by far is the title of this anthology, edited by Libbie Rifkin: Career Moves.

The title of the ungrammatical adjective. Nothing seems to delight poets more than titling a poem with a freshly-construed pseudo-adjective. Why this is so, I haven't the slightest clue. But there are several here: The To Sound by Eric Baus, Regarding Wave by Gary Snyder, Monkey Time by Philip Nikolayev. But the worst one has got to be The Heat Bird by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge.

The title as instruction to the reader. Relatively rare, this species of title nevertheless offers some particularly egregious examples of badness. Worst example on the bookshelf? Hugh Prather's Wipe Your Face, You Just Swallowed My Soul.

Finally, I offer the "title that makes use of unusual punctuation marks." Although not as bad about this as po-mo academics, there have been some poets who've succumbed. This one is also the worst title overall, the grand prize winner, the lamest, most laughable title I can find right now: (W)holes by Cynthia MacDonald.

Can you top it?


Anonymous midnightscholar said...

Several titles from Copper Canyon Press's catalog strike me as deserving of snark. How about:

"Waltzing Through the Endtime," by David Bottoms

"The Beauty of the Weapons," by Robert Bringhurst

"Sappho's Gymnasium," by Olga Broumas (think about it ;)

"While We've Still Got Feet," by David Budbill

"Resurrection Update," by James Galvin

"The Wind of Our Going," by Patricia Goedicke

"Memory at These Speeds" and "August Zero," by Jane Miller

"Waiting for Sweet Betty," by Clarence Major

"Mermaids in the Basement," by Carolyn Kizer

"The Bird of Endless Time," by James Laughlin

"Saying the World," by Peter Pereira

"The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body," by Alberto Rios (your brain for thinking of that title, maybe?)

There's quite a few others -- check 'em out:

9:04 PM, July 12, 2005  
Blogger Snark said...

"The Wind of Our Going" is better than any of the ones I came up with. My message to Patricia: You smelt it; you dealt it.

2:12 AM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous dustbunny said...

Liz Waldner's "Dark Would: (the missing person)," perhaps?

7:06 AM, July 13, 2005  
Blogger Adam Hardin said...

You left out a major one. One that is an epitome of badness:



Janet Holmes

7:56 AM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous midnightscholar said...

Of the ones listed above, I'm rather partial to "While We've Still Got Feet," just for its utterly unintentional silliness, and "Waiting for Sweet Betty." Ah sweet, sweet Betty -- 'tis a name to conjure w/.

7:57 AM, July 13, 2005  
Blogger Peel said...

Did you seriously miss "Soul Make a Path Through Shouting" by Cyrus Cassells III?

Pardon me while desk make a hole through head.

9:36 AM, July 13, 2005  
Blogger Snark said...

For once I agree with Hardin. Humanophone is awful, awful. I've actually read the poems in that one too, and I can say this about the title: at least its terribleness accurately presages the book's contents.

12:00 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anamorphosis Eisenhower" by Sam Truitt.

What the fuh is "Anamorphosis Eisenhower" supposed to mean??? Shards of faith and weak pretension.... Shards, in any case.

The Real

12:12 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about _The Misunderstanding of Nature_, by Sophie Cabot Black? Come on, admit it, you've never really understood Nature. But Sophie has. You need this book.

Come to think of it, I nominate Sophie's name too. One surname for pre$tige, and another for sheer musicality. O Music!

12:43 PM, July 13, 2005  
Blogger Lon Silliman said...

Leaves of Grass.

What's that about?

1:39 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pity the Bathtub its Forced Embrace of the Human Form"

"Turd My Yam"

"Loose Scoochy"


3:20 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty Porker = Poetry Snark

I heart anagrams

3:41 PM, July 13, 2005  
Anonymous mark levine said...

How about ENOLA GAY
it has a sort of lyrical fingering underscoring its tragic occassion.
I wanted to get across the inherent minty pellet of the apocalypse and I think I really scored. You should read this book, I broke a lot of ground and, not to be to, well, full of myself-- but fucking EVERYONE started ripping me and MY post-nuclear holocaust poem-flavorings off.
I mean ENOLA GAY was someone's mom And ALOT of my poems are mommy poems-- dear mommy-wommy tommy ate a tomato wire and tried and tried to sing with his mouth but his mouth wouldn't open and his shirt was sewn around his army-warmies and then for the seventh night I tried to fuck a mommy-smelling girl who luvy-wuvied me-we.

My next book will be great.
It's called: THE WILDS.
Because I go wild with my poems.
Just like the title says.

7:49 PM, July 13, 2005  
Blogger Ginger Pennebaker said...

Ginger is SOOO STONED!!! I had an idea, saw a book called "The Air Lost in Breathing." So...Is that the exhaled carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc. or is that the oxygen transported thru the bloodstream to the cell's core? Stonèd Ginger, confused, defers. She is wearing leather breeches! Other titles: The River Sound...maybe...do I want to smoke some more? How about "The Tempest?" Wait, that's a play and I heart Ariel. No go. How about any pansy "Selected Poems?" So all of them aren't good enough...? Sorry, I always get a tad bitchy in these situations. Okay. Worst tile ever:
THE PSAMLS. Fuck you, monarch/shepardist. You psuedo pspititual psycho. I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death and I FEAR EVIL. Yeah!

12:38 AM, July 14, 2005  
Blogger Zinnaida said...

Hey Snark,
I have a great title for you. The title is real look it up.....if you really want to. A title not to be missed!

"Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump"
by David Bottoms

8:56 PM, February 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with your site, very nice graphics!

4:07 AM, June 08, 2006  

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