We Will No Longer Nominate to The Pushcart Prize

“I have long railed against the e-book and instant Internet publication as damaging to writers. Instant anything is dangerous—great writing takes time. You should long to be as good as John Milton and Reynolds Price, not just barf into the electronic void.”

-Bill Henderson – The Pushcart Prize 2012 Introduction..

Since the inception of The Fox Chase Review we have attempted to nominate poets and writers for the annual Pushcart Prize. The Pushcart honored those published in the small press and we are a small press magazine on the net. It seemed to make sense; so after the editors chose some nominees we mailed in our nominations.  It appears according to Mr. Henderson we have been barfing in the void.  We have been honored to publish the work of many fine writers and poets who work hard on crafting their art. Quite frankly we also believe in giving folks a shot at getting published and attempt to include new poets/writers in each edition. Our review is a little different in that we search out writers and poets whose work we enjoy and accept submissions through an invitation process as opposed to open submissions.  The reason is simply our staff is very small and this process works for us and those we publish. Additionally our rejection rate is very high.

Our decision to publish electronically as opposed to print is grounded in the belief that those we publish will benefit from greater readership on the net as opposed to a small print review that would be hindered by associated costs and distribution issues. It would be a crime to have boxes of print magazines sitting in the basement without hope for distribution with the exception of course those who would order a few copies over the net.

The internet has opened a door to poets/writers in this new time. There are many fine publications who publish only on the net and are not easily entered. Rejection rates far outnumber acceptance rates.  Henderson’s void is an opportunity for various styles of writing to emerge that may not have found a home in more elitist presses which I am sorry to say The Pushcart has now become through the voice of Bill Henderson.  The Fox Chase Review will no longer submit entries to The Pushcart Prize and we hope Henderson doesn’t continue to barf on his computer.

We will continue to publish The Fox Chase Review and offer our readers an eclectic group of writers and poets who work hard at their craft with the hope that these artists benefit from exposure in the review.

g emil reutter

g emil reutter founded The Fox Chase Review and The Fox Chase Reading Series in 2007.

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29 responses to “We Will No Longer Nominate to The Pushcart Prize

  1. Wow! That is mind-boggling, but not at all unexpected of an establishment such as the Pushcart Prize. And by establishment I mean the venues of publication and distribution that have for a long time now, precluded writers and artists — and literature — to be accessible to wide readership by means of their self-serving “high” standards.

    While it is true that there is danger to a writer in finding instant gratification when publshed instantly, the readers, in the long run are going to be the judge of that specific writer’s read-worthiness. In this sense any writer worthy of their salt will still need to go through that honing, refining, aging process that respectable and respected writers do.

    Each new age of distribution has its rewards and challenges that bring about changes faster than the naysayers can grasp. The digital one is no exception. People may resist it, may deny it but only those who embrace it — and who give it a chance — for the better or for the worse, can be fully cognizant and appreciative of the new ways of writing and doing art and their impact on humanity. Ultimately, those are the ones who will— not-literally — survive.

  2. Beth Copeland

    Why penalize deserving writers of a Pushcart nomination just because Bill Henderson’s comments are elitist or offensive? Keep nominating excellent work published, whether on line or on paper, so that all writers have a chance to be recognized.

  3. I think he’s a bit behind the times. Sad. I have received two Pushcart Prizes and I value them. But I think Bill has missed the boat on the ebooks and emags. Writing takes time, yes, but publication is another issue. It should not be controlled by a handful of print magazines. That said… I think you should still continue to nominate.

  4. I don’t know what he means by “Instant Internet publication” because editors of online journals consider/evaluate submissions no differently than the editors of print journals, don’t they? I don’t imagine submissions go from Inbox to Internet publication without thoughtful selection (and, like any magazine, some editors are more discriminating than others). His remark that “great writing takes time” suggests that poems that appear in online journals were written more quickly or with less rigor than poems that appear in a print journal; the venue in which we find a poem has nothing to do with the time it took a writer to write it. Bill Henderson has spoken too quickly and without thought (given his logic, his remarks should not be in print but rather “barf[ed] into the electronic void.”

  5. Here in Van Nuys

    He is right that instant anything is dangerous. But all the words of all the writers who came before us are now floating around the internet and I am sure that when the typewriter replaced the quill pen, there were people decrying the typewriter technology.

  6. As Michael said, ‘(pushcart) should not be controlled by a (dwindling) handful of print magazines’ (no matter how much I personally value them). In my experience online editors are just as fastidious as their print counterparts. To write-off all internet publications is absurd and risks making the Pushcart Prize completely irrelevant to all those who may not be able to subscribe to hard copy journals, which, let’s be honest, pretty much ensures you’ll get print time.

    I support Fox Chase’s brave stance, but would also ask them to reconsider simply in order to prove Henderson wrong.

  7. I am fortunate and honored to have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. But having seen the Pushcart winners year after year, I never expect to win the Pushcart Prize because I am never published in the Pushcart-accepted journals. What started as a way to publish cutting edge writing is now something that honors the less adventurous. I am not surprised at Henderson’s comment and support Fox Chase’s decision.

  8. Thanks to all who have commented here and to all those who sent emails and tweets on the subject. The discussion has been healthy to say the least. It was a basic decision in that the guy running the joint said “barf into the electronic void”. We’ll just keep chugging along with no need for the cart.
    g

  9. agreed, see my comments on facebook pushcart has been behind the curve for a long time; it has been, and will continue to be. beside, who is bill henderson anyway and what truly original work has he ever done??? none!

  10. Jefferson Carter

    There’s nothing wrong with being elitist in art and in life; there is something wrong with damning ebook and online publication as “instant” publication. Whether the writing is published in print or online, good authors will have spent as much time as necessary to perfect their work.

    As for the Pushcart nominations, they mean less than nothing. My various editors have nominated my work for a prize, and all the hundreds of other editors have nominated their authors–BFD. I don’t even mention this fact in my bio.

    I wander cyber-space with trepidation, however; there is so much shit-art out there, one wishes all online poetry could be juried before being let loose on the unsuspecting online readership.

  11. Cranky old fart, things change…

  12. Henderson’s arrogance is a vain attempt to maintain the status of editors as gatekeepers to artistic credibility, but only if they are wealthy enough to create a press that uses mashed trees treated with sulfuric acid and toxic inks.
    Thus, Art according to Henderson is the exclusive province of the rich, or those who are subsidized by the rich–aka, “the university.”
    We all note that while the Pushcart anthology cannot be had in any e-book version, the O. Henry Awards are. More’s the pity–short forms are more suited to electronic distribution than most.
    The democratization of letters annoys reactionaries, who prefer their world of privilege.
    Here’s to barf.

  13. Comments via email:

    1. “That’s $#%$##$ ridiculous — good for you for writing this”

    2.“well said”

    3. “I saw your statement about the Pushcart Prize, and although I am dismayed that you had to make that decision, I certainly understand your reluctance to participate. It seems that the “folks at the top” continue to pat each other on the back, see their names in print, and judge the rest of us. It is because of folks like you and Diane that people like me can see their work and have others hear it. Thank you for that opportunity. Rock on!”

    4. “Hear hear! What an excellent piece of reasoning. I salute you, sir. Indeed, I’ve been saying much the same thing for years. (If you’re interested, there’s a taste in this interview I did for ‘Eight Cuts’ apropos my small press Andromache Books – see especially no. 4 ‘Why do you offer ebooks for free?)
    http://agnieszkasshoes.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/andromache-little-corner-of-excellence.html

    Mr. Henderson is a silly man, and he can push his little cart right back into the 20th century where it obviously belongs.

    I’ll definitely spread that piece of yours around.”

    5. “What do folks think of this? Apparently the good folks at the Pushcart prize disparage on-line journals like _Fox Chase Review_ and _Wilderness House Literary Review _and don’t award them Pushcart Prizes.

    Should Wilderness House follow suite and stop nominating Pushcarts in protest as well? It’s my opinion that some of the things we publish are as good if not better than those stories and poems that have gotten Pushcarts in the past. What do you think?”

    6.“Why not get some online magazines to start their own poetry prizes? Unless, of course, PP wakes up and smells the online roses that written.”

    7. “They are saying that there is a lot of crap on-line without merit, not “everything on-line is crap”….Check the book, it has material which was originally on-line…..Also, Zvi, there are tons of “Best of” on-line material that appears in as print anthologies or in on-line journals. “

  14. Court Merrigan

    Who is Bill Henderson?

  15. I gave up nominating writers for the Pushcart Prize several years ago. Way too much stock has been given to Mr. Henderson’s opinions over the years. I stand firmly by MY opinion that the selected poems and poets I nominated in those years stand up equally to, or surpass, much of what was selected for publication in those anthologies.

  16. I’ve been nominated twice for a Pushcart but apart from appreciating the regard shown by the nominating magazines, I never took those nominations very seriously. Work published in the same major magazines wins year after year, sometimes excellent work and sometimes a bit dull. At any rate, I think our contemporary world (literary and other) values awards far too much. If writers refused to pay their $25.00 to enter contests and just used that money to buy books, the writing world would be much better off. I applaud your decision to blow off the PP and I hope all the other fine, discriminating internet literary magazines do the same. Remember that Sartre declined the Nobel and Virginia Woolf expressed contempt for prizes because of the inequality inherent in the publication/judging politics of the time. Would I accept a major literary award if it were offered to me? I’m still out to lunch on that one!

  17. From Lyn Lifshin

    After being nominated perhaps a thousand times for Push cart by former winners, by excellent editors and excellent magazines,

    For years I was told there was one person who constantly voted against me. I don’t really know if that is true but like so much in the poetry publishing world, connections etc seem to matter more. I have always worked as an outsider and I will continue

    but the awards etc come from the inside

    best

    Lyn Lifshin

  18. Pingback: Why Does Pushcart Hate the Internet? « PoetCore

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  20. why doesn’t pushcart devote the same number of pages to poetry as it does to prose . . . it’s insulting to poets to have their work squeezed and lost inbetween those huge blocks of prose. their blackballing of Lyn Lifshin is shameful. i know my poems aren’t good enough to be in the pushcart, but her work deserves to be in there every year (and in BAP)

  21. Henderson has a very outdated way of thinking! I think that many pieces of fine work have been published on the net and I certainly would not consider it “barf”. I’m an intern for a literary magazine at the moment and I know that rejection letters are plenty since our publication comes out twice a year and so many writers wish to be published on it. I think that the format material comes in should not take away from the writers accomplishments and craftsmanship.

  22. What Mr. Henderson said is quite condescending; however, you should not let that discourage you from nominating writers for their work anyway. Shrug it off. The rest of us know better. By nominating writers who have been published in online journals, we can eventually prove his arrogant statement wrong. Many great print magazines have since moved online and no longer distribute paper publications, so his statement is obviously outdated. And it’s only his opinion, which holds no merit.

    Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” was rejected numerous times, and rather harshly. He received letters from editors who personally disparaged his book. They hated it. Big-time publishers–the Bill Hendersons of the these companies–refused to accept it. They said the public would never read such garbage. Well, it took one little-known publisher in France to finally notice the story’s worth. And they published it. The rest is history, a classic. But what if Nabokov let those very early, spiteful letters from all those “Bill Hendersons” to discourage him from sending out his manuscript? What if he would have stopped submitting “Lolita” at the second or third rejection? What if he said, “Forget it, I am through. They say ‘Lolita’ is barf, so I am no longer going to submit my manuscript!”

    …but he didn’t. He believed in his story quite fiercely, and I believe, Mr. Reutter, you need to keep believing in your writers just as Nabokov kept believing in “Lolita”. I know it’s frustrating, but it’s more “barf-y” to just quit submitting lovely poems all because one man had a poo-poo thing to say. What if the next time you submitted to the Pushcart Prize was the time for one of your writers to be recognized? Or maybe it’s the time after that. Now you’ll never know.

  23. Daniel Cicala

    There is a very obvious logical flaw when Bill Henderson goes from saying that good writing takes time to saying “Instant *anything* is dangerous.” I don’t blame Mr Henderson for not trolling around the internet, reading blogs and forum posts and comments on Reddit and YouTube looking for good literature (though that would certainly lead to an interesting take on “representative works in American letters”!), but his reluctance of accepting ANYTHING that expedites ANY part of writing is logically laughable.

    By this logic, he should be using the Gutenberg Press and distributing his books using horse and carriage because all other advances in technology speed the process of getting words from writer’s minds to reader’s hands, which–using the adage of good writing takes time–is automatically a bad thing. Wait a second, no! Handwriting every manuscript and sending it by turtleback is far slower, and therefore necessarily better!

    Point is: the ideation, writing and editorial processes themselves are tough to speed up without sacrificing quality, but this does not mean (either logically or practically) that technological advances in producing and distributing the final product should be forgone altogether. To use a journalistic analogy, The New Yorker has vastly superior writing to CNN.com because they put immense time and effort in their stories; this became no less the case when The New Yorker finally gave in and created a mobile app for their magazine. I am already a reader of the Pushcart Prize, but if they made their 600-page mammoths available as a micro-occupant of my fingernail-sized memory card, nothing would change for the worse–I would simply be able to read their fine collections on the subway, in the line for the bathroom at a bar, in the waiting room at the doctors office, etc.

    • Daniel Cicala

      But I will say, in his defense, that the very same qualities that make it possible for him to serve up such fusty fodder are the same exact qualities that are responsible for his positive contributions to the literary world. It takes an opinionated man or woman with a massive ego to not only say that the establishment is wrong, but have the faith in themselves to think they are savvy and powerful enough to tear it down.

      Pushcart has become a gatekeeper in itself (which is inevitable), but imagine how much higher aloft the gates would be if not for the legitimate possibility of a slushpile acceptance turning into a prestigious resume booster that might lift you out of the slushpile. I assure you, long-form fiction and non-fiction do not have a comparable workaround; a great manuscript is worthless without a great pitch (which heavily favors genre writing) or fortuitous connections, etc.

      Mr Henderson spends the first few pages of his collections brazenly strutting around with his pants off, and it deserves an eyeroll from the masses, but I also like to see it as a window into the personality quirks that allowed him as a rebellious young gun to back small presses and shove some nameless writers of great words into the spotlight.

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