Sometimes the naming of things is the stuff of myths. It is the act of creation, the bringing into being by forming sound, shaping destinies with a few well-chosen syllables.
This is why mothers spend months agonising over lists of names, why people go into five star hotels for entire weekends and subsist on coffee and liqeur chocolates so that the right name can be found for a product.
But sometimes, if you cannot find exactly the right name for something, it is better to leave it unnamed.
Or so I think.
When I asked Anindita how she thought of names for her poems, I had this in mind. She turned the question back to me, and I said that mostly I don't title my poems; I just pull out the first line and stick it in the title. But really, there are so many ways to name a poem.
Sometimes the title comes first
At Koshy's, Anjum was telling us about this restaurant where she's had lunch. It was called Madeleine. She'd told me about this place earlier that afternoon, and I had said, Madeleine, as in Proust? Again, at Koshy's, Jeet drew a line between the restaurant and the author. See what I mean? there's something to be said for the names you choose.
Earlier, Anjum had expressed her dissatisfaction with the food; now that Zac was drawing broader brushstrokes and comparing the crepes unfavourably with the dosas at the nearest local place, she was compelled to find nice things to say about it.
Which was when I said the first part of the title of this post.
'Hey! There's a poem in there!' Anjum said.
A couple of days later, on email, a friend told me about a couple of Dickens found on the pavement for a dollar each. One Dollar Dickens has a ring to it, doesn't it? Another poem there.
Sometimes you spend more time on finding the title
The poem writes itself easily enough. But somehow, making the first line do all the work is not an option. You feel that if only you had the exact, right title, it would do something more for the poem.
So, like Pirandello's characters, you set out in search of a title - each word in your first line with a bundle tied at the end of a stick, all its worldly belongings in there, with a song on its lips and sturdy footwear on its feet for the long dusty road ahead.
Sometimes the title is the first line
There's a Roger McGough poem about this. I just can't find it. The title is the first line and the first line of the poem is really the second and so on.
Ideally, the first line ought to be in bold, or typographically, but not physically, separate from the rest of the poem.
there are times when you're not sure which came first because it doesn't matter - everything is organic and whole, and yet clever (not a dirty word here) and perfect.