On May 30, 2008, in this space, Dan Nester posted about an afternoon he and Jonah Winter spent sending up the titles that adorn poetry books. The titles that occurred to them "all seemed so aggressively portentous, imbued with such fawning obsequiousness," Nester wrote. "To exorcise ourselves of the real-life titles we were mentioning, titles that shall not be mentioned here, we played a word association game wherein either Jonah or myself would think of the second word of a two-word poetry book title, which would after after whatever the other participant named as the first." The "after after" in that sentence is hard to parse, perhaps deliberately, but the list of titles that follows clarifies the idea and gives us a window into the lads' minds that day: "Technical Vulva," "Variegated Cock," "Airport Beaver," "Stiff Flowering," "Tremulous Beaver."
The best of the list formed a category of their own: "good bad titles." Such was the thought of Corey Zeller, who approached a bunch of other poets to see whether they would produce self-parodying titles on order. Zeller's objective: "to write a book of serious prose poems" borrowing the deliberately bad titles. That She Could Remember Something Other Than _________, a Nester / Winter nominee, is the working title for Zeller's collection.
Among those who have responded to the summons thus far are Dean Young ("Tears of My Shadow"), Major Jackson ("The Shoeshine Chronicles"), Nin Andrews ("Beta Male Ballads"), Kim Addonizio "What Color is Your Vagina," "What Do Assholes Want?" "My Despair"), Arielle Greenberg ("Four Thousand Short Notes on Heidegger") as well as Joe Wenderoth, Dana Levin, Tim Seibles, Matthew Zapruder, and Joyelle McSweeney. A few conclusions can be drawn. Heidegger, who figures in several titles, handily beats out Descartes as the bad philosopher of choice. Sex, body parts, and bodily function retain their ancient popularity, with Dean Young's "My Mother's Thong" rivaling Dorothy Lasky's "Sitting by Your Mom's Bush in Broad Sunlight" but topped in tastelessness by the simplicity of Peter Markus's "On the Rag."
Here are some of the titles Jim Cummins has punfully proposed:
THE INTERPRETATION OF JEANS
THE LIVES OF A CELLO
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S PERSONS
Jim also suggests some plausible pseudonyms, chosen from the imaginary "tablet of contents" that he has been tinkering with for years. W S Merlot pours well. With Kenneth Joch you wonders how to pronounce the surname: Jock? Joke? Josh?
The last on this list was prompted by the proposition that the Macbeths may be Shakespeare's happiest husband and wife -- in the tragedies at least.