In Mythical Man (publishing April 2020 via Palimpsest Press), his debut collection of poetry, author David Ly explores themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and personal identity, shattering preconceived notions about who we are and who we think we ought to be. An exciting and thought-provoking examination of what the idea of masculinity means in this day and age, Mythical Man serves as both a vivid sensory joyride and a whip-smart deconstruction of gender norms.
We're thrilled to have David at Open Book today to discuss some of his favourite titles, as well as the role titles play in his own work.
Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.
The title of the book is drawn from four poems in it each called “Mythical Man”. When I wrote the first one (titling it after I finished the piece), it clicked for me that it could also be used to name the whole collection because it really summarized what the poems in the book do: imagining masculinities, notions of manhood, and interrogating identities while seeing how all of these ideas can be challenged. I also wanted something punchy, memorable, and slightly cinematic that could lend itself well to a cover design.
What, in your opinion, is the most important function of a title?
To leave an impression on the reader, whether it makes them laugh or “ooh” with curiosity. I try to come up with titles that do this while also encapsulating the kind of story I want the poem to tell.
What is your favourite title that you've ever come up with and why? (For any kind of piece, short or long.)
Hard to say…but from Mythical Man it might be the last poem in the collection called “Walking Together at the End of the World”. It’s a piece where I really let my imagination to run wild and it allowed me to do my own telling of two characters in a mythical-like story.
What is your favourite title as a reader, from someone else's work?
There are a handful of titles that are my favourite, but I think the number one is Slow Lightning, the poetry collection by Eduardo C. Corral. That title conjures up so many feelings that I absolutely love and I applaud Eduardo for coming up with it. It also contains my favourite component of titling: a level of contradiction that intrigues me as a reader to pick up the book again and again.
What usually comes first for you: a title or a finished piece of writing?
I think a title comes to me during the writing of a poem. Once I am in the middle of writing, and have a sense of where I want to take the piece or have a better understanding of what the poem is doing, that’s when a title comes. “Hunt” from Mythical Man is my favourite example of this. There have been a few times where a title does come first though, and I use that as a starting point to see what kind of poem I can tease out: “Disco the Pug is Mine” is a fun piece from the book that I did this with.
What are you working on now?
Just more poems! I have a collection of pieces that is growing, but I’m unsure on where it’s all heading, so we’ll see! It’s a nice distraction from the writing and planning of a novel I’ve been entertaining the idea of for a year or so. I recently titled a piece “I Want to Believe in Pink Himalayan Salt Lamps”, and it makes me laugh so I’m sticking with it to see where it goes.
David Ly is the author of the chapbook Stubble Burn (2018) and the poetry collection Mythical Man (2020). His poetry has also appeared in PRISM international, carte blanche, The Maynard, Pulp Literature, The /tƐmz/ Review, and others. David has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he has been long- and short-listed for the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence and the Magpie Award for Poetry, respectively. Twitter: @dlylyly.