Titles of poems are seldom useful to discuss as part of an explanation. Is this true or false?

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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False!  Titles are one of the most important things a writer thinks about when writing a poem or other literary piece.  It is the first thing a reader will see and remember, so it better catch the reader’s attention.  The title anticipates what the poem is about, and hopefully, will cause the reader’s interests to peak and want to keep reading.  The title also gives the readers hints and clues of what the poem is about.

Here are a few titles that capture a reader’s attention and hook them into wanting to continue reading more:

  •         “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
  •         “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss
  •         “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
  •         “Dreams Deferred” by Langston Hughes
  •         “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by Williams Wordsworth
  •         “Do Not Go Gentle In To That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

A lot of thought and planning usually goes into a title.  It not only creates interest for the reader, but can also set up the tone and mood of the poem.  For example, the mood and tone of the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley is set up immediately because the definition of “Invictus” is “unconquered.”  As readers, we can expect the poem’s mood to be uplifting and about not giving up.   A title can also put a work of literature in its historical or social context.  For example, the novel, The Red Badge of Courage, is about the Civil War in the United States.  The “Rose That Grew from Concrete” by Tupac shows the efforts of African Americans to survive in society and the inner city.   

No matter what a writer names his piece of work, he is very conscious of the impact it will make.  A title can be catchy, but more importantly, it can inform the reader about literary elements such as symbolism, tone, mood, context, and theme.

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