Bad Poetry Titles

Poor poets. We have a lot of forces ranging against us. We will never make any money. We read badly. We take author pictures with our heads titled slightly, leaning on our hand.

But it’s not enough that everyone thinks we’re pretentious assholes, we also have to come up with bad names for our poetry books. Our presses don’t have enough enough money to hire marketing departments. This is obvious from books published in the past few years:

Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes are Pierced

Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form

Pioneers in the Study of Motion

The Area of Sound Called Subtone

The True Keeps Calm Biding Its Story

Dick of the Dead

I haven’t read these books and a few of them look pretty good. But their titles are a wink and a smug smile. There’s a story that the reader isn’t privy to. The trend is similar with fiction titles and I blame “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.” There are ways to pique the reader’s interest without coming across as a smug asshole who spent too much time in grad school:

Late Wife

Carolina Ghost Woods

Stealing the Children

This Is Not Your City

These titles are shorter, but have some depth to them. There’s some action but not a literary dissertation behind the title. The reader is invited into the action.

Editors, sometimes you have the power to change the titles. Exercise that power. Please.

What are your least/most favorite titles?

3 responses to “Bad Poetry Titles

  1. I was thisclose to calling you out for making up those book titles until I did some Google searches.

    Uh, GODDAMN.

  2. I am growing increasingly annoyed by the formula for a raft of recent nonfiction books: Catchy Short Title (That Usually Involves a Play on Words) followed by Long, Explanatory Subtitle.

    Also, since you mentioned it, “Heartbreaking Work…” annoyed me, too. I get that you’re talented and witty and ironic and self-conscious. You don’t need to be beat me over the head with it.

    Phew, I feel better now.

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