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Titles to Unwritten Works

For the past year or so I've been recording in my notes app any potential title that comes to mind. Now, the common wisdom dictates that titling a work should be the final step in its production, but I think working backwards from a title and imagining what such a work would be like makes for an interesting exercise. Here are a few that you may find intriguing:

"My Sadness Speaks a Tongue I Never Learned"

A touch of melodrama here, no doubt - fitting perhaps for a song by The Smiths. Regardless, I like the idea of self-alienation this title captures. I recently finished watching Scenes from a Marriage (both the HBO version and the cinematic cut of Bergman's original) and was struck by the episode title, "The Illiterates." The idea is that however the couple tries to "unpack" what went wrong for them, their analysis is ultimately nothing but empty noise; they have no language by which to decipher what has happened in their shared life. Although poetry generally seeks to find words for the inexpressible aspects of our inner worlds, I think it is important to recognize that it can also give voice to that very inexpressibility, as ironic as that may seem.

"The Basking Rock"

This puts me in mind of a coming of age tale set somewhere in the American south. Two friends share a secret hideaway, a large flat rock by a stream or creak where they can be away from their families and communities, alone together in the sun as the water burbles by.

"Housekeeping in the Bardo"

Full disclosure, I was thinking of George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo when I came up with this one. I have yet to read it, but hope to soon as it looks to be solidly up my alley. The "Bardo" is the liminal space between death and rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism. The so called Tibetan Book of the Dead is originally titled Bardo Thödol, which translates to "liberation in the intermediate state through hearing." It is essentially a travelers' guide to this intermediate state. By throwing in "housekeeping" I hope to imply a more lighthearted "slice of life" tone, as strange a place for a "slice of life" the Bardo may appear.

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