From Poetry Line to Headline: 7 Stellar Titles and their Origins

by @Annie Daylon

Ever wondered how an author came up with a stunning title? Many have come from poetry.

In an earlier post, What’s in a Pen Name, I mentioned Annie Murphy, my grade eight teacher from whom I learned to appreciate poetry. My love of poetry continues and, over time, I have discovered many phrases which have made their way from poetry line to headline. Here are seven stellar examples:


1) Novel: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.
Poem: Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

2) Novel: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Poem: To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough by Robert Burns
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

3) Novel: The Crimson Petal and the WHITE by Michel Faber.
Poem: Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font;
The firefly wakens, waken thou with me.

4) Novel: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poem: Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays:
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

5) Novel: Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell
Poem: Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina Rosetti
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

6) Novel: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Poem: Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

7) Novel: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Poem: Meditation XVII by John Donne.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Seeking a title for your book? Check out Public Domain Poetry, a website that allows you to search for poems by author, title, first line or latest poetry added. There is no shortage of choices: nearly thirty-nine thousand listings!

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My best to you,

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