I’ve had my poetry tips published for over ten years now, and this, by far, is the most controversial tip. People get very upset when I tell them that untitled poems are lazy, and there is no doubt that I could have worded this tip in a kinder, gentler way. So be it.
My worry is that it isn’t really laziness that causes this, but some pretentious desire by poets not to label their “art”. Well, forget it. Untitled poems look BAD. I absolutely hate to see poems without a title. If I do like it, what can I tell other people? Here is my dramatic recreation of a conversation about an untitled poem. Feel free to picture it as an Abbot and Costello routine.
“You know, I read this great poem the other day!”
“Really, what was it called?”
“That’s the name?”
“No there is no name. It’s untitled.”
“How do I look it up?”
“The poem is listed by its first line.”
“So the first line is the title?”
“No, it’s untitled.”
“Why not just make the first line the title?”
“If I could explain that, I wouldn’t be in this mental institution.”
My point is that poems deserve names, if for no other reason than to help us look them up and discuss them. Name your poems. Consider it a necessary part of the process and take the time to think of a name or just use the first line. Please.