Bookmaking: Titling Your Collection



My biggest struggle in creating the book was the title. What would I call such a massive representation of self? I had been tongueing several poems in a chapbook for submissions, which I was calling With Skepticism, but that was not a fair representation of me, nor was it a good reference for poems that might be several years old. I wanted something that would be good for all levels, something complex enough to carry the collection yet simple enough to give instant recognition.

I chose Lucid Dreaming.

Then I looked into the steps of lucid dreaming and bent them to be more pleasing to the eye. Those became the 10 chapter headings that made the sections for the work.

You could choose anything: The stages of a tree, the layers of the earth, the counties in your home-state, obscure eras of history, types of birdcages, parts of the hand. Anything. As long as it gives a representation of your writing. And not just your poems.

Once there, revisit that list. I talked about this a little last time, but this is where you get to really tackle those poems. I placed my ten title pages on the list, giving each section about 5-6 poems. Remember you will need blank pages and title pages too. That mapped out the space for me.

Since the document is all mixed up (to allow for signatures) you will need to determine what goes on each page ahead of time to keep everything in order (if you don’t care, skip this step—randomness is next to godliness).

The title was important because it was me. It was everything I was writing about, it was all represented in some way. The darkness, the silliness, the bright and the obscure. I could find a niche for all my oddities, which helped me organize the poems later.

Why title?

Well, there’s nothing wrong with ‘collected poems’ but it feels old-worldly, post-humus and serious. If that represents you, then sure. But if not, then take this opportunity to control your work.

In this space I talk a lot about poet-intent and authorial-control. When the poem is in the universe, all control is forfeit. We know that. There aren’t posters featuring your work with a sound bite of you yelling from a speaker box to help the readers understand. You are meaningless, and so is your intended takeaway. So act with intent now. Edit! Revise! Swap with a Friend! and please, above all, Title! Title your work, title your collections, title so that we know you didn’t forget to.

Titles are like underwear.

Yes, you can go out without them and have a pretty good day, but they make you feel better and have been proven to be pretty hygienic. If you never wear underwear, you may want to consider a lifestyle change, if you always wear weird underwear with complicated ribbons and bows and bells and charms you may want to consider a career change (just kidding). But seriously, they are important, titles anyway.


Set the tone,

Focus the content.

Aid in understanding

Polish the look of a piece,

Address the reader indirectly

Give a starting point

(and last but not least)

Allow for the addition of information that either did not fit in the piece or does not belong in the piece as it stands.

We see this all the time, poems that are made better (or worse) by a title that has nothing to do with the poem. But for better or worse we are in tune more with the content now that we have been gifted with the insight.

Poems that are stellar with their titles:

“this is just to say”

“in a station of the metro” – which makes the couplet into a haiku

“the love song of j Alfred prufrock”

—I’m a bit of a postmodernist, but the list goes on. Even Whitman’s “Song of Myself” which could not have been edited more or contain more contend, was improved with the title.

I’ll conclude this rant with a thought. Poems titled or not, are you comfortable with your life’s (so far) work being summed up with a generic verb like collected or selected? If not, then title things now, when you can, and when you are long gone and famous, people will honor you with the words you chose to designate yourself, paying respect to your authorial intent.

Keep Writing and I’ll be back soon for more on the bookmaking process!



Bookmaking: Organizing Your Content

Dear Poets,

Hello and thank you to all the new followers for taking an interest in this brainspace. Let’s travel back to a post from almost a month ago and talk about setting up a book from the ground up. I had some photos of my experience and talked a little about my epiphany but otherwise, there wasn’t much direction for you.


So let’s make things a little more practical.


I started with a list. My poetry collection is a little over 100 poems now, but that’s not a true number. Most of them I would never use, many others are far from finished. Some of them are pretty close to being ready and others I have submitted before. In order to reign in that group I started with a list.


In this post I talk about making your poems visible with a master-sheet. Mine was done in excel, which was a breeze. I recommend having a line for the title, date and revised date (at least). If you are at the point where you are submitting these works, you might want to have those dates and journals listed so you can keep track.



Back to the book – I knew I wanted this to feel like a book, so it was important to have bump pages (blank pages that serve as space fillers, like in a novel at the start and the end).Suddenly the book that was 72 pages was actually 70. Keep this in mind, as you will not want a book that is cover to cover poems.

You will need:

A title page

Chapter heads

Blank pages inside to separate them

For me, I wanted all chapter heads on the right side, so some additional blank pages were needed for those.


Then I started making a key:

I numbered a piece of paper, designating blank pages, chapter heads and how many poems should go in each. It was really just guess work at that point.

I wanted 10 chapters and each chapter therefore had 5-6 poems. I was not strict in the first round since I knew I would lose my mind going in and messing with the pages. There was time for that later, during the layout.

I also decided I didn’t want poems to take 2 pages. It was too hard to manage them in the word layout. That would be up to you, depending on how complicated you wanted to project to be.

Then, I simply went poem by poem and put it on a page line (or not). I knew I wanted certain poems to face each other—evens on the Left, odds on the Right—and others I wanted to begin or end a chapter. That was about a meticulous as I got in planning. Otherwise things just landed where they felt right.

For me – The poem number as well as the title help define my work. In my list I have mostly numbers. I was able to better locate them that way. Poem numbers are important in my collection, though this might not be a factor for you. Maybe they are color coded or separated by theme; keep this in mind as it will add character and interest to the collection as a whole. We are not talking about just single pieces, but as a full representation of your work. That means there will be a bigger picture to consider.

I’ll be back soon to talk about Titles!

Keep Writing and start Booking!