Why Does Pushcart Hate the Internet?

About a week ago (maybe longer, I’ve been busy) the Fox Chase Review posted on its blog an item about the Pushcart Prize. Specifically about the Pushcart’s editor’s (Bill Henderson) statements regarding online publications.  In his 2012 editorial he described internet publishing as “barfing into the electronic void.”

Actually he may have written more than that, and to be fair, I admit I haven’t read the entire editorial because I haven’t purchased the book. I often do pick up the annual anthology, but now I’m reconsidering it.

In past years Henderson has written similar thoughts concerning internet publishing. In the 2010 edition he wrote “Because you can burp up a poem or short story online, you will not immediately join the ranks of the immortals. Indeed you will be embraced in the Pantheon of Twitter. Or maybe The Kingdom of Kindle will admit you. Fast books, no binding needed. Toss when done. Another electronic absurdity.”

So, if I’m reading this correctly, Henderson sees web publications as either an electronic absurdity or barf in the void.

Without knowing much about Henderson, I’m left thinking that he’s just incredibly under informed or stubborn (in 2010 he described the Pushcart offices as “a computerless shack in the backyard). Oh, the good ol’ days when you could smell the ink on the paper.

The number of quality online poetry publications in 2012 probably equals, and maybe even surpasses the number of paper pubs. I’m guessing he doesn’t know about them. In fact, looking at the list of publications represented in the book, it’s clear he doesn’t read them.

Why? Henderson seems to equate electronic publishing with rush, even rash publishing. Does he confuse people posting poems on their own blogs or Facebook with legitimate poetry outlets such as Cortland Review, Foundling Review, Fox Chase Review or Wild River Review? I think the answer is yes?

The online pubs I know, including the ones I’ve been honored to appear in, apply as much editorial rigor, process and judgment to the work they promote as does any notable paper publication. The difference is in the delivery method, not the creative product.

Are there some lousy online pubs? Pubs that will post anything that rises just above greeting card level? Of course there are, but there are and have been bad paper journals too. Just as the best paper pubs have risen and made names for themselves, so too are the best online pubs.

Will the Pushcart eventually look at a calendar and realize that maybe it’s time to catch up? I don’t know, but I do support the position of the Fox Chase editors and hope other online editors don’t let a slap from an institution like Pushcart slow them down a bit.

In my next post, Why Do Online Pubs Still Act Like Print Pubs?