I love thinking about the perfect title for anything I write. This love of the title has left me wondering why people label pieces of creative work as “untitled”. (I’m trying to write a poem based on this practice). There are many here if you search for “untitled“. I see creativity “untitled” not only in poetry, but in many art forms, (scroll down to “title it”), and even in the naming of groups—is there something I’m missing? Maybe the function of the “untitled” is an abstraction I haven’t yet understood? How is it possible so many creative endeavours venture to be different by titling their work “untitled”? Is there uniqueness in similarity? Sometimes I want shout: pick a name, any name. Call it Sue, Bill, Jane, Ted, whatever, but calling it “something” is the key. How many poems are titled “Something“? Since when does the title not matter? To me, the beginning can end something faster than a word meets the eye. Call me untitled, but the title seems like something to me.

6 thoughts on “Untitled

  1. I wrote a song called “Work in Progress.” It worked on so many levels 😉

  2. Oh, Tracy, it’s just because you’re so good at titling and the rest of us aren’t! BTW, that title idea, It Happens was a great one!!!


  3. Anita that’s a great title. It says something.

    B-)I’m glad the title works. If only the poems were as easy to get as the titles!

  4. Hmm. I think a title’s and poem’s relationship can take on many forms. For instance, a title might “pin” the poem (that is, it might act as a caption that more or less summarizes or anchors the piece), or it might “spin” it (that is, it might add some information that complicates or throws a new light on the rest of the piece, or, more often than not, just part of it), or it might begin it (that is, the title might also function as a first line). In these cases you also have a different form of reference: the “pin” stands outside the piece and somehow controls or circles it, the “spin” also stands outside but exerts a particular force on the rest of the piece or just one part of it, and the “begin” occupies a space somehow both inside and outside the poem. (Sorry for the rhyming conceit there. It just came to me.) I’d imagine there are other possible relationships too. I think calling a poem “untitled” draws attention to the fact that this space that can function in this variety of ways is empty (or, well, isn’t quite empty, but has no definite value attached to it). It encourages the reader to experience the poem as somehow free-floating and, because the “untitled” stands outside, complete or unto itself, I think. So, yeah, calling a poem “untitled” is directed toward this relationship as opposed to any particular semantic meaning.

    Just some thoughts off the top of my head. I’m not sure about them, but this relationship is something I’m pretty interested in.

  5. Mark, I think I agree with you, to a certain degree, about this: “the poem as somehow free-floating and, because the “untitled” stands outside, complete or unto itself”. But, at the same time, I find myself thinking that because the title is “untitled” doesn’t that indicate a point of reference for the reader, and is– maybe intentionally– misleading the reader in a direction, much the same as a title would. I think my beef is that so many artist/writers do it, some as a gimmick, some seriously, that I find it overused and perhaps generic. Maybe the thing to do is to not title the piece. Leave it blank. (This must happen, but maybe editors place the “untitled” into the piece?)

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