A Darwinian welter of tens of thousands of rock bands desperate for attention has created over the decades some remarkable band names. The band name is probably another form of anonymous folk poetry like graffiti, bumper stickers (mobile graffiti), advertising catch phrases, and most especially idiom. Idiom is a phrase, peculiar to a given language, the constituent parts of which phrase will not predict its meaning. A few familiar examples are: “eye candy,” “bar fly,” “couch potato,” “cloud castles,” “knuckle dragger,” “gilded cage,” “dumpster diver,” “stud muffin,” “Cadillac Christian.”
Something happens when the right two words or three are isolated together on a page, but whether or not this indeterminate wave-particle of pith is a “poem” is unimportant. The phenomenon matters more than its tag. Whatever it is, it may be the culmination of literary historical trends, making it the ultimate in literary minimalism, and the vanishing point for that most characteristic of Modernist trends in poetry: ever-greater compression or breviloquence. Indeed, the rock band name may be pointing the way to a new poetic form for the age of texting, tweeting, and haiku reviews. An essay at the back of the book makes the case for a new poetry form inspired by the rock band name: the two-word poem.
Most rock band names are two words, and with two-word band names there is no room for the literal. They resonate across the surrounding blankness without the syntax, the word flow, the complex of ideas and meanings present in even a short short poem. The lack of a syntactical context allows for freer combinations and allows every conceivable association of each word and the two combined to come into play.
The band names in Choicest Rock Band Names as Tiny Poems were culled over a thirty year period from those of the U.S., England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and even New Zealand. They were created mainly by adolescents and they have an adolescent edge, adolescent morbidity, and adolescent candor. For anyone who might doubt the adolescent’s capacity for creating quality poetry I mention only Rimbaud.
Check out the abridged version under “Read a Section.”