Q: I have no trouble writing poems (my journals are full of them) but my titles are the worst! Is there any way to make title-brainstorming easier? —Harried Headlines
A: Sometimes finding the right title for a poem can be the hardest step of the writing process. An easy solution is to use a memorable line from the beginning or ending of your poem. Or try these other ideas for making the job less painful from wikiHow.com, the Center for Writing at the University of Minnesota, and Richard Leahy’s “Twenty Titles for the Writer.”
First, think about the purposes of a title: it predicts what the reader will find, catches the reader’s interest, and reflects the tone of the poem. Now, start brainstorming. Write down everything that comes to mind when you think about your poem. Identify the main themes, list keywords, and jot down anything that stands out. Especially look for attention-grabbing phrases. Or, search your verse for a concrete image—something you can hear, see, taste, smell, or feel. WikiHow suggests using “strong, vivid language,” and that “a title needs to stand out. Strong action words, vivid adjectives, or intriguing nouns can all make your title compelling. Look at the words in your potential title. Are there synonyms that are more descriptive or unique? Can you choose a word that has a less general meaning? Some words are so common their meaning doesn’t impact readers the same way.” Now arrange your ideas in different combinations to see if a good title comes out. If you’re still stuck, try these title-composing exercises:
Write a title that asks a question and starts with What, Who, When, Where, How or Why.
Write a title that is a lie—you probably won’t use it, but it will get your creative juices working.
Write a one-word title using the most obvious word possible.
Write a one-word title using the least obvious word.