National Poetry Month: 15/30: “This Work Remains Untitled”


I’ve always loved discovering that the title of an album is actually a lyric embedded in one of the albums tracks. It’s like a little discovery that helps to solidify the title of the album for me as the listener. Jagged Little Pill is an example from the 90’s is an example of a title that sneaks up on the listener in “You Learn.”

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater includes a poem by Pat Mora, “One Blue Door,” from the Writers Select Titles category of Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing In All Genres. In her poem, Pat Mora selects her Title Straight From the Text.

Our subject James Castle had not formal language from which to draw to title his work. Like Emily Dickinson, Castle left us with a large body of work but no “first line” from which to draw an arbitrary titling system. And, so, many of James Castle’s pieces are listed as “Untitled” and described by the materials used to create the work.

Mora’s piece is “One Blue Door.” In the piece we see:


Seven four-line stanzas followed by a summary sentence.

Anaphora: “To make a poem. . .”

Bird imagery

Water/Rain imagery


James has a number of “birds” and “roosters” as untitled constructions of cardboard and stitched twine. Let’s see what this might look like:


“This Work Remains Untitled”


To make a very small bird,

use slender strips of solid paper

to line the fragile walls of a heart

beating a rhythm never before heard.


To make a blackbird of the field,

tear from rough-hewn cardboard

a caw caw caw kind of sound;

leave its unsung song “Untitled.”


To make a downy-filled duck, pluck

from the plain paper of the daily news

a wide, white body like a big soup bean

but please don’t name the way it walks.


To make the funniest pelicans,

you  must pretend as though you’ve

never seen such a thing. Never: Ever:

and then you won’t have to name it.


To make a very small child, just sew

a stitch here and a stitch there to keep

his feet fastly and firmly on the ground,

not chasing unnamed birds about the yard.


To make the book that no one can read,

cover the pages with letters and symbols

that can only make sense to the author;

make the unknown reader work for it.


To make what might look like a man,

you must first map out the head and heart;

only then can you decide what his hands

will make with his memories with no names.


Untitled, unite them all.

Then untie them all.


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