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The Meaning and Use of Writing Elements in Titling Poems

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The Meaning and Use of Writing Elements in Titling Poems
Titling pieces of literature can be considered an art in itself. Titles in poetry, no matter the length, use different poetic writing elements to add clarity, value, or meaning to the poem whether the title guides the reader to understand or pushes the reader to search for a deeper meaning in the poem. Poems such as “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop, “The Lamb” by William Blake, and “Unholy Sonnet” by Mark Jarmon are examples of poems that provide explanations of the author’s motivation behind titling their poems. Writing elements in poetry such as symbolism, tone, imagery, and similes provide inspiration and reasoning towards titling poems.
The writing element of symbolism is very evident in the poem “The Lamb” by William Blake. Symbols such as “an object, person, place, event, or action can suggest more than its literal meaning” (Meyer 702). In this poem, a child asks a lamb about his origins. The lamb clearly symbolizes Jesus. The lamb in Christian faith resembles peace, love, and gentleness. In the poem, the child says “He is called by thy name,/For he calls himself a Lamb./He is meek, and he is mild,/He became a little child”(Blake 13-16). Here the child symbolizes Jesus but also innocence. The poem ends with the child blessing the lamb, which can symbolize Jesus in his youth or Jesus’ care for children. The title “The Lamb” may seem simple and straightforward, but on the contrary the title invites the reader to look deeper into the symbol in the title. On the surface, this title introduces the main subject in the poem, but in order to grasp the meaning and symbolism in the poem, the reader must understand why the author uses “The Lamb” as the title.
The tone of a poem reflects the author’s attitude about the poem. Different types of attitudes that authors can portray are irony, sarcasm, or sympathy. Irony can be defined as “a technique that reveals a discrepancy between what appears to be and what is actually true” (Meyer 707). The title of the poem “Unholy Sonnet” by Mark Jarmon has an ironic tone that allows the reader to form questions and have a predetermined feeling about the poem before reading it in its entirety. Sonnets were originally love poems that had a problem and then a solution. In “Unholy Sonnet” Jarmon says, “In this communal stab at coming clean,/There is one stubborn remnant of your cares Intact./There is still murder in your heart”(Jarmon 12-15). This statement is ironic because after prayer and confession there still is no peace in one’s heart. Certain actions cannot be forgiven or freed from one’s conscious. The poem starts by speaking of communion and prayer and then takes a turn to murder. The irony in this sonnet is also shown in the title. The title, “Unholy Sonnet”, leads the reader to believe that the unexpected or abnormal is going to occur such as murder.
Along with ironic, an almost sarcastic and annoyed tone is apparent in the title “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks. The use of poor English in the title introduces the overall attitude of the poem. Imagery and other literary devices such as alliteration and word play allow Brooks to portray the negative consequences that come from the troubled lifestyles of corrupted youth. The subtitle, “THE POOL PLAYERS/SEVEN AT THE GODLEN SHOVEL” not only introduces the reader to an almost dreary, scary setting, the words “the pool players” also leads the reader to stereotype these people to have gang-like characteristics. Throughout the poem, the seven pool players’ drop out of school “lurk late” (3) and “sing sin”(5). “We Real Cool” begins with the line “We Real Cool”(1) and ends with the line “We Die Soon”(8). In today’s society, being uneducated and sinful is not considered cool and can lead to one’s destruction in society or even result in death. The tone, imagery, alliteration, and wordplay in the subtitle and the entirety of the poem adds meaning and clarification to the title of the poem, “We Real Cool”.
The writing elements of imagery and similes require the reader to look deeper into the meaning of the words chosen to describe or compare different objects. The poem “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop uses similes to relate the struggles of beauty and life to a fish using imagery so the reader can picture the fish just as she imagines the fish. The title “The Fish” is pretty straightforward and introduces the subject of the poem but also helps the reader focus on the importance of the fish because Bishop used the word “the” in her title because she is referencing a certain fish, not just any fish. In the beginning of the poem the fisherman describes the fish by using imagery and similes such as “his brown skin hung like strips/like ancient wall-paper” (10-11) but as the poem comes to an end, he finds beauty in this fish when he noticed, “where oil had spread a rainbow”(69). When examining the fish the fisherman notices hooks hanging from the fish’s mouth and thinks “when it broke and he got away/Like medals with their ribbons/frayed and wavering,”(50-62). In these few lines, Bishop allows the reader to understand that the fisherman does not consider this fish to be like every other fish. The fisherman in this poem gained a certain respect and admiration for this fish after contemplating the fish journey the fish had been through. Authors when creating a title for any piece of literature apply much thought and consideration. The effective use of tone, imagery, and other literary devices can unravel the true meaning and underlying message of a poem. The simplest of titles such as “The Fish” can seem meaningless or thoughtless, but if the reader takes the time to analyze and understand the use of the writing elements throughout the poem, the title will seem much more important. At the surface, titles seem to hold no value, but as one looks deeper into the layers of the poem and writing elements, titles hold great value. Works Cited

Bishop, Elizabeth. “The Fish.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s , 2009. 581-582. Print.

Blake, William. “The Lamb.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s , 2009. 764-765. Print.

Brooks, Gwendolyn. “We Real Cool.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to
Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s , 2009. 649. Print.

Jarmon, Mark. “Unholy Sonnet.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s , 2009. 783.

Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading,
Thinking, Writing. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. Print.…...

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