What do Billy Collins, Punxsutawney Phil, and the New Zealand Dr. Who Fan Club have in common?

By Harriet Staff

Absolutely nothing, but now you’ve got something in common with Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan: his straight-shooting “On Poems That Have Nothing to Do With Their Titles,” cries out on behalf of anyone who’s been hoodwinked by a headline:

We are uncouth. As is most of America. We are not highly literate; we are middlebrow and low-minded. But still. Do not try to trick us into reading shitty poems with an enticing title. We do not like that.

Nolan, swindled into reading a poem over at Slate against his better judgment, determines to give it a Good Honest Try despite the lowness of his brow. The poem begins:

dissolves, lets me pass, nods assent. I mouth
"morning," eye the candied, cardamom gloss of my shoes,
shrug against the cold. Everything, as the nomenclature
goes, 4 Sale: this Smithean forge this Stereoscope-
by which I mean, of course, the wan illusion of depth

Of course, duh. Every time somebody starts talking about "this Smithean forge this Stereoscope" around me I'm like "Whoa, buddy, hold on just a minute there. Do you mean the wan illusion of depth?" And they're always like "Yeah, of course, sorry about that."

...but sadly, in the end, is disillusioned:

Hold on a second brother. We read this whole poem and there was nothing about LOLfauxhemians at all and then in the very last line you're gonna be all like "Good-bye Bill-y-burg" and act like it's cool to just use that for the title of the whole thing? I mean it is old-timey how you put the hyphens in the word and that kind of reminds me of like 25 year-old guys in Williamsburg who dress like Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York and shit, with very insistent mustaches, and that kind of brings a smile to my lips. But did you even mean that? Am I giving you too much credit here? I'm not very happy about having read this whole thing.

Had enough of tantalizing titles? Find the rest of Nolan's story here.

Originally Published: September 20th, 2011