Is the Pushcart Unplugged?

January 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

Travis Kurowski offers up a compelling critique of The Pushcart Prize – Best of the Small Presses 2012 over at Luna Park.  Travis, as we do, values all of the work Bill Henderson has put into the series over the years, but worries about a bias against online work:

The problem was the severe limitation of the anthology’s scope, an anthology ostensibly offering up the “Best of the Small Presses.” This is a shortcoming most significantly represented by Henderson’s disparagement of any and all online and electronic publishing venues. (Only one online publication was chosen from for this 2012 anthology.)


When the Pushcart Prize began in 1976 it was the anti-establishment (for lack of a better word). Anais Nin, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Newman, and Ishmael Reed were all prominent supporters from its inception. Maybe today things have changed? Not only are electronic and online publications nearly missing, but so are most cutting edge literary magazines and presses—Conjunctions and n+1 are about as avant garde as it seems to get this year. The anthology begins with work by Steven Millhauser and John Jeremiah Sullivan, two stunning authors, but also ones we can easily find in the glossies. Most of the publications with work chosen from them are largely mainstream, lit mag industry staples: Georgia Review, Harvard Review, New Letters, New England Review, Poetry, Third Coast, Tin House, and so forth. Again, these are largely great magazines; what’s lacking in the anthology is greater diversity and real coverage of the best being published in the indie presses.

Of course I’ll buy next year’s anthology, and the following year, and the year after that. And if I run into Henderson I’ll try to remember to introduce myself and thank him for all the great work he’s done for literature over the decades. The Pushcart anthologies are overall great publications, probably the best out there for representing and promoting what’s going in indie literature. I’m just hoping for a bit more electricity in the future.

You can read his full post here.

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§ 2 Responses to Is the Pushcart Unplugged?

  • A thought-provoking critique. I think I’ve tended to (somewhat) discount online publication in part because online venues tend not to figure in anthologies like the Pushcart (and also because I’m just an old-fashioned girl). The Pushcart is one place I look when I’m trying to figure out where to send my own work. So it feels important to ask if it’s really doing a good job of “representing and promoting what’s going in indie literature.”

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