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?