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Naming Your Poem

What if your parents decided not to give you a name and you went through life as “that kid” or “hey, you?” Names are important. Chances are your parents puzzled over a name for you for months, changing their minds multiple times until you arrived. I was told my parents exhausted the alphabet before I was born; even so, my original birth certificate reads, “Baby Levinson.” I never liked the name they finally gave me. I always wanted to be Elizabeth or Susannah.

Some poets will omit a title or name a poem “untitled” for various reasons, all of which l believe leave the poem without an anchor. When I start to write a poem, I use what is commonly called a “placeholder” name as a springboard to get me started, but it rarely becomes the final title for the poem. I may have a general idea of what the poem will be about, but, very often, I find that somewhere down the page, the poem begins to take on a life of its own and I merely become the transcriber of what it is trying to say.

Because there are various types of titles, it is not always a simple task to decide which title will do the best job. Sometimes a short poem wants a long title and vice-versa. There are no hard and fast rules, except to alert the reader to “here’s a great poem I have for you.”

I wrote a book of retold fairy tales, The Owl Prince, and all the titles have two parts, as in “Ella at Fourteen or Why a Good Man is Hard to Find.” Someone remarked that the titles themselves were almost a poem. I often use one word, “Nightmares,” or two words, “Eating Chocolate,” because that’s the main focus of the poems. Some titles can also take a significant line from the poem that sets the stage for what follows, as in “Stay on the Path, Mimi,” where, on a trail in the woods, my four-year-old granddaughter warns me that there are snakes in the underbrush.

Sometimes information, perhaps a necessary location or a proper name that would take up too much space to explain inside the poem, will fit nicely in the title, as in “Riding the Funicular with a Rugby Player from New Zealand.” Or a title can set a tone, as in “Playing Chess with the Muskrat” or “Cousin Leon and the Playboy Bunny” I also like to open some poems with titles such “How” or “Why” as in “Why I Never Want to Fly across Montana Again.”

Most of these examples were not the first, or even the second or third titles I tried out on the poems. Every time I draft a poem, I do several revisions, and each time I will revisit the title and often change it. Titles are not necessarily cast in stone either. I’ve had poems published with one title, and then for my book, A Siege of Raptors, I gave every poem a new title to fit the special format for the book.

Remember that your title is your best free advertising. We write and publish our work with the hope that someone will read it. When I pick up a new book of poetry, I scan the pages. There are two things that will make me stop and read a particular poem. First, the title, and second, how the poem is arranged on the page, but that is another issue. Make your titles do some work. Don’t let them get lazy and just take up space, or fail to show up. Yes, you can fall in love with a particular title, but make sure it headlines the right poem.

 

Nancy Scott (nscott29@aol.com) has been managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in Central Jersey, for more than a decade. (We do not publish poems without titles!) She is also the author of nine collections of poetry. Her most recent, Ah, Men (Aldrich Press, 2016) is a retrospective of the men who influenced her life. Scott worked for the State of New Jersey for twenty years, first on         behalf of abused and neglected children, and then to assist homeless families find permanent housing in the community. Running Down Broken Cement (Main Street Rag, 2014) was inspired by these experiences. Find a sample of her poems and other information at www.nancyscott.net. Her books are also available at Classics Used Bookstore.

 


Video Contest and a Reward for People who Support Independent Authors

VIDEO CONTEST

Please help judge these videos!

Eight creative geniuses created videos about Classics Books. They are competing for prizes. Please check them out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQEC6b-tb4KIB6VEXeSbCkw under the CONTEST playlist and “like” the ones you like. The video with the most likes (on the Classics channel) wins prizes!

INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

Help Classics support local authors!  Buy 4 books by Classics authors from Classics in 2017 and get a $20 gift certificate for used and rare books at Classics!  Reply to this email for a complete list.

Classics support of independent writers

Classics does several things to support independent writers that other bookstores do not.

During scheduled book signings,

  • independent authors keep 100% of their revenue.  Classics does not take a commission.
  • Classics invites local vloggers to capture interviews on video.

Classics authors promote that their books are on consignment at Classics and support one another.

In return, Classics

  • promotes Classics authors on social media and links to their website.
  • offers rewards for customers who purchase from independent authors. Buy 4 books by Classics authors from Classics in a given year and get a $20 gift certificate for used and rare books at Classics.
  • hosts a local authors book club, where the club chooses local authors to read and discuss.

Neighborhood News July 2016

Two exciting changes gone on in the neighborhood.

The 1911 Smokehouse Barbeque has opened up on Front Street.  Any Classics regulars who like good barbeque need to visit next time you are browsing the stacks.  I recommend the barbeque garlic sauce, though they have eleven different sauces from which to choose.  They also have the C Rock special (one rib and a sip of Coke for $1.49) which is hysterical.  Plus, if the wind is blowing right, you can smell brisket in the smoker from the bookstore.

Maxine’s has new owners and is now called South Rio.  The food is quite good and they did a great job on the interior.  You should pop in and welcome them to the neighborhood as well.

 


2015 Books at Home Report

In 2015, the Trenton Books at Home Program distributed $5,909 worth of books to Trenton students.

The Books at Home Program provides free books to Trenton kids. Studies show that when kids have more books in their home, they do better in school—no matter how much they are struggling. You can see one such study from 2010 as published in Science Daily here http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100520213116.htm.

Books were handed out with the help of the Learning Lab of Trenton, UIH, DYFS family reading room, Ida’s neighborhood book club, PJ Hill, Green Acres and Life Gate Assembly Church.

If you would like to arrange for books to be made available to your Trenton youth group, contact me at book_cellar@mindspring.com.


FRIENDSHIP AND SERENDIPITY IN A BOOKSTORE, guest blogger Marion Cohen

Every fourth Saturday I come here, from Philadelphia, to play Scrabble. After I take Septa to Trenton, Barbara – our well-known Classics fixture – picks me up and drives me the short mile. Classics is such a friendly place! Somebody always brings in Scrabble food, or we go to that little outdoor place around the corner and across the street. Sometimes, to start out, Barbara and I are the only ones here, but soon other friends arrive. Barbara knows their names; I don’t. Little by little, though, I’m beginning to recognize people and things about them. I know, e.g., that John is, like me, a writer and, like me, has written memoir. On “Scrabble day” Classics is like a little commune; it’s everybody’s home. I assume it’s that way all week.

There are going to be two serendipities in this post. The first involves how I came to know about Classics. Well, first I came to know Barbara. Meeting her was itself serendipitous. About eight years ago my friend Susan and I were playing our weekly Scrabble game – or two or three… — in Starbucks on 10th and Chestnut in, yes, Philadelphia. Along came two friendly strangers, interested in watching our game. By the next game, they had joined in. They also joined in the next week, and the next, and the next.

And so began our Scrabble group — Barbara, Bruce, Susan, and me — meeting at that same Starbucks. This went on for several years until life evolved and Barbara got involved with Classics. Now we join her there, for Scrabble. (Barbara and I also sometimes meet for thrift-shopping, usually in Trenton.)

And then something serendipitous happened for my life as a poet/writer! I’m a mathprof and also the author of several books, poetry and memoir (one book about my passion for math), published mostly by small presses. Like many poets/writers, I have almost as many unpublished books as published. And like many poets/writers, I’m always on the lookout for (A) places to do featured readings (as opposed to open mics) and (B) publishers for unpublished books.

It wasn’t long before Barbara invited me to do a featured reading at Classics. And I never dreamed that a small bookstore reading, in a town over an hour from where I live and where nobody but Barbara and Classics knows me, could lead to so much! After Barbara, and then Eric’s, invitation about two years ago I did one Classics reading, attended by about ten people (and sold more books than I often sell at readings). Then, about a year later, when a new chapbook of mine was released – Parables for a Rainy Day – I did another.

Eric, by the way, is one of the kindest poetry reading coordinators I have encountered. And I’ve encountered many, most of whom you have to email more than once, indeed more than twice, in order to get an answer to a reading query, and many of whom consent to schedule you and then forget about it, and many of whom actually do schedule you and then forget about it. Not Eric! Eric gets back to you right away – give him a day or two – with a reading date. So I, like many, very much appreciate Eric.

At my own second Classics reading about a year ago – again, in this small town that barely knows me – something happened that’s every writer’s dream. At that reading was an actual talent scout! Elizabeth – another familiar figure around Classics – runs a press called Red Dashboard and she was at the reading looking for authors. And then – again, every writer’s dream – she heard me read and invited me to submit a book manuscript – not a chapbook, mind you, but full-length. No reading fees! No fees of any kind! (So many presses, small and large, charge anything from five to twenty-five dollars to accompany the submission of a manuscript). Of course I sent Elizabeth a manuscript right away, probably as soon as I got home from the reading.

At that time my books totaled 21, with the possibility (which did pan out) of finally placing the sequel memoir to Dirty Details: The Days and Nights of a Well Spouse (Temple University Press) being released by a small press, Unlimited Publishing. (That memoir is titled Still the End: Memoir of a Nursing Home Wife.) Of course, I was thrilled to have the sequel memoir published, but I still had many poems, both new and backlog, uncollected in books. So I was very happy when Elizabeth emailed me back, after a not very long wait, with an acceptance for my 23rd book (Lights I Have Loved).

Only at Classics has such a thing happened to me, or perhaps to anybody! In my almost-forty years as a serious writer, I’ve found publishers – and I always have to search anew – at book fairs, open mics, and mostly by hard-core sending out queries to people I never met and vice versa. Only at Classics does a book fall into my lap!

Find out more about Marion Cohen on her website:  http://www.marioncohen.net/

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Classics News

Barbara Keogh, reigning Scrabble Champion and artist, became a US citizen Friday May 29!

Though we give free books to kids all the time, we recently gave an inordinately large number of books (18 boxes) to the DYFS visitation room for kids to take home.

The First Capital City Book Fair, run by Jon Gordon and Iana Dikidjieva, was a great success–70 vendors (authors, bookstores and small publishers) and two full days of events, including Pultizer Prize winners Yusef Komunyakaa and Chris Hedges.

The Times of Trenton wrote up a nice article about us.  You can read it here:

Book Stalagmite


Capital City Book Fair

Join us May 1 and 2nd for the Capital City Book Fair!

Features include

Book Market with 50+ authors, publishers and bookstores running along the street from Classics Books to Mill Hill Park. Chris Hedges on The Wages of Rebellion. Jenna Pizzi on her Pork Roll Cookbook. A screening of Standing on my Sister’s Shoulders about the Mississippi civil rights movement. Guerrilla haiku. Kimmie Carlos. Clifford Zink on the Roebling Legacy. Poetry slam. Scrabble. A film festival under the stars. Books and Barbeque. Writing workshop. Papermaking. Open Mic. Book repurposing. Step teams. A literary bike tour.

For times and specifics, visit the Book Fair web page at  https://www.facebook.com/events/805364449517346/?feed_story_type=17&pnref=story


10 Years in Trenton

In 2005, Classics Books came to Trenton, successfully recruited by the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), when part of its mission was to recruit retail businesses.  Matt Bergheiser, then Executive Director of the TDA, led a burst of growth on South Warren.  In this time period, empty dirt lots and gutted buildings were turned into buildings that now house delis and the AT&T store and a yoga studio.  The Zagat’s rated Italian restaurant Settimo Cielo came to Front Street.  And Classics Books came to town.

Classics started as part of a TDA co-op on South Warren, expanded to take over the entire space and eventually moved to its current location, across from the hotel, at 4 West Lafayette.

In those ten years, Classics has dealt in metric tons of books–cookbooks, poetry, fiction, history, science, classic literature, art, science fiction, kids books.  It sold top-of-the-line first editions like The Cat in the Hat and leather bound Shaker histories.  It has hosted book clubs, and Peoples and Stories, and poetry open mics.  They supported authors–from neighborhood Shakespeares to Pultizer Prize winning Yusef Komunyakaa.  They printed the Trenton Review, hosted booksignings and sponsored the 2008 Trenton Book Fair.

In those ten years, they played Scrabble on 520 Friday nights–each night until midnight in the heart of Trenton.  They played Cards against Humanity, the Name Game and Civilization.  They knitted, and origamied, and discussed urban development.  They hosted the filming of music videos, mayoral hopeful meet and greets, jazz bands, rock bands and belly dancers.

In those ten years, they distributed over 25,000 books to Trenton kids free of charge, through the Books at Home program, because having books in your home has a dramatic effect on how long kids stay in school and how well they do.

In those ten years, people made good friends, found jobs, found publishers, supported local businesses, built a life, built a community.

Classics in ten years old in April.  To celebrate, one party didn’t seem like enough.

  • April 4 from 2 pm to 6 pm, poet Todd Evans, host of the Capital City Open Mic, will host a poetry marathon with poets and musicians from all over Mercer County featuring poets Janelle T. Harvey and Jay Knives.  FREE event.  50% off all poetry books.
  • April 10 from 6 pm to midnight, the Trenton Scrabble Club will have a Scrabble party with prizes for every winner.  All skill levels are welcome.  FREE event.  50% off all used and rare books.
  • April 11 from 12 noon to 2 pm, the Trenton Knit and Stitch will toast community and creativity.  FREE event.  50% off all craft books.
  • April 18 from 12 noon to 4 pm, the Trenton Party Games Coalition will break out Cards Against Humanity, Trivial Pursuit, Headbandz and the Name Game.  FREE event.  50% off all used board games.
  • May 1 and 2, the Capital City Book Fair will line the streets with up to 100 authors and bookstores from Classics Books on one end to Mill Hill Park on the other.  For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Capital-City-Book-Fair/450123515140208.

Happy 10th Birthday Classics!


2014 Books at Home Report

In 2014, the Trenton Books at Home Program distributed $4326 worth of books to Trenton students.

 

The Books at Home Program provides free books to Trenton kids. Studies show that when kids have more books in their home, they do better in school—no matter how much they are struggling. You can see one such study from 2010 as published in Science Daily here http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100520213116.htm.

 

Books were handed out with the help of the African American Pride Festival, the Carver Community Center, Ida Malloy’s neighborhood reading program, Isles Youth Build, BOYD, Children’s Futures, Kelli Mitchell’s Hoagies for the Homeless, the Butterfly Effect, Razor Sharp Barber Shop, the Capital City Community Coalition’s, Westminster’s GetSet program, Planned Parenthood, and teachers from Jefferson, Hedgepath, Paul Robeson, Trenton High School West, and the Foundation Academy.

 

Current major supporters include donors honoring the loving memory of Lois Dowey, The I Am Trenton Community Foundation, Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson, Home Rubber, and Children’s Futures.


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