I have recently compiled a new collection of poems. Titled The Ostensible Sloth of Distress, it contains (if my count is accurate) 67 poems in the usual five sections (plus prelude and postlude).
The astute observer will be asking, Wait—didn’t he just publish a new book a few weeks ago? Yes. Yes, he did.
The timing has much to do with my taking notice of two competitions with June deadlines soliciting full-length poetry manuscripts for consideration, and momentarily having enough cash to submit entries. The competitions are the Two Sylvias Press 2017 Full-Length Poetry Prize and The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award.
Although I have typically been part of the crowd opposed to reading fees, and am generally disqualified from submitting works to most journals because of my practice of posting new poems to my blog on a daily basis, one of my goals for this year is to submit more work for consideration. Consequently, so far this year, I have submitted poems to Narrative’s 9th Annual Poetry Contest and the Two Sylvias 2017 Chapbook Prize, as well as submitting This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life to the Pulitzer Prize folks. Later this summer, I will also put in for the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship and the Jack Straw Writers Program.
But, back to the above-mentioned submissions…
There is also another method to my madness. As with my entry for the Two Sylvias 2017 Chapbook Prize, this latest round of submissions forces me to hold off on publishing the poems contained within. Instead of publishing a new book after accumulating a few more poems, I must now wait a few months before deciding whether or not to publish these accumulated pieces. Two Sylvias Press will be announcing the winner of its Chapbook Prize in September, and its Full-Length Poetry Prize in December; The Bitter Oleander Press will announce the winner of its prize in November.
How will I feel about these poems in four, five, or six months? Hard to say. But, if none of my submissions are selected, I will have a much larger pool of work at that time from which to compile my next project. Plus, I will be able to look at these poems again with a fresher perspective. I may decide some no longer fit my criteria for publication. I may think of edits to some pieces that would not have occurred to me earlier. Or these separate manuscripts (chapbook and full-length) may fit together (with or without poems I write between now and then) to create something unexpected.
As for the title… Yes, it is purposely pretentious. But here again, there is a method to my madness. It was originally The Ostensible Sloth of the Poet in Distress—but I felt that was too pretentious, so I took out the poet part. The Ostensible Sloth of Distress is a reference to depression. To the uninformed observer, depression can look like laziness, or sloth, yet the person affected by it is experiencing real distress.
At the same time, it is my way of fulfilling a promise, if only to myself. Allow me to explain: I remember reading an article on The Cars in Rolling Stone, not long after the release of their first album, in which it said that Ric Ocasek already had the title for the band’s greatest hits album: Used Cars. Yet, when that album was released in 1985, it was called The Cars Greatest Hits. The two-disc anthology that came out in 1995 was called The Cars Anthology: Just What I Needed. A more comprehensive single-disc compilation released in 2002 was called…Complete Greatest Hits. A 2016 compilation was called Moving in Stereo: The Best of The Cars. There have also been Shake it Up and Other Hits, The Essentials, and Classic Tracks. No Used Cars. A perfectly brilliant title—gone to waste.
So, if I am considering calling my next book Fred: The Lilac Years (which I am NOT—this is just for illustrative purposes (though now I kind of like it))—even if in my own mind, without having mentioned it to anyone else—I do not want to end up releasing a book with the dull, prosaic title of Poems, Autumn 2017. Accordingly, since I started compiling this book under the title The Ostensible Sloth of Distress, I saw no need to change it once it was in a form I felt was finished enough to submit as a manuscript. Hopefully, it is pretentious enough to get a laugh (whether genuine or derisive) out of those who don’t get the deeper meaning, and accurate enough that those who know what I am referring to will get it.
But that is not so important at the moment. It will be a few months before anything happens with it; by that time, who knows what it will become?
(5 June 2017)