Our Pushcart Nominations and Why

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We at New Pop Lit have joined the annual flood of mail sent off to the good people at Pushcart Press in Wainscott, New York, in the form of six nominations for consideration for Pushcart Prizes. Winners are included in the Pushcart Prize annual collection.

Every year the Pushcart people receive thousands of nominations from hundreds of literary outfits. The competition is stiff, to say the least.

If the editors have a bias, it’s understandably toward print journals, as they continue to operate in print. They may also be biased toward “name” writers– we’ve seen the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Mary Gaitskill in their collection. This is understandable also. The Pushcart people seek credibility and recognition, just like the rest of us.

OUR OBJECTIVES

What should be our objectives when deciding which works published in the past year to nominate?

1.) To nominate some of our best/favorite writings. Including work that pleased our readers.

2.) To present an eclectic mix. We’ve included in our nominations this year a poem and a book review. “Eclectic” in our mind includes mixing younger and older writers.

3.) To give ourselves an outside chance that one of our nominations wins a Pushcart Prize. Which means, long stories or essays are out. As a print publication, Pushcart has strictly limited space. If an upstart like ourselves has ANY shot to be included, it’s with a short work that grabs their attention.

Perhaps the best story we published in the past year was “Lucid Dreamer,” by Scott Cannon. It starts slow, and is quite long. This excluded it, in our eyes, from being nominated. Fortunately, we ran a shorter work by Scott in 2016 which is also an excellent story.

The other side of the coin is that we nominated not one of the “flash fiction” stories we published. Which brings us to our fourth criterion:

4.) To indulge our capricious whims. We’re writers– artists– ourselves. Which means at some point we throw away logic and operate on emotion and instinct. if we don’t have fun doing this project– what’s the point?

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OUR NOMINATIONS

“Clarity,” a story by Alex Bernstein.

“Ergo Propter Hoc,” a story by Scott Cannon.

“Diminutives,” a story by Samuel Stevens.

“The Old Neighborhood,” a story by Andy Tu.

“Colapinto’s Undone,” a book review by Andrea Gregovich.

“Death in the Medicine Cabinet,” a poem by Blixa BelGrande.

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Many thanks also to Anne Leigh Parrish, Tom Ray, Jess Mize, Ian Lahey, Erin Chapman, “Fishspit,” Tarzana Joe, Dan Nielsen, Wred Fright, and the other talented writers we could’ve or should’ve nominated this year.

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Thanks most of all to the people at Pushcart Press. The best way to support what they do is to purchase one of their collections– at a bookstore near you.

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A National Book Awards Skeptic

IT’S ALWAYS HEARTENING to see contrarian viewpoints within the often-monolithic established literary world. One of the consistent contrarians is critic and book reviewer Thomas Leclair. Recently he wrote this provocative examination of the National Book Award fiction finalists. (Winners were announced last Wednesday, November 16.) We agree with Leclair’s calling for more nominees from the small press– though we may be thinking of a different small press than he is. Our favored small press is in the process of creation– presenting neither “Big Five” commercialized crap, nor excessively “literary” scribblings penned by an insular literary elite disconnected from the vital currents of the American people and land. We look for a new hybrid– literary art which will be both popular, relevant, and original. A new American literature.

We also note that Leclair avoided the question of political correctness– of whether or not politics and/or ideology played a role in the NBA selection process. The task of the writer– of any artist– is to avoid the trap of an approved status quo viewpoint.

We trust that Thomas Leclair will continue to question the literary status quo, whatever his viewpoint.

(Also see our own recent look at the National Book Award poetry finalists. The announced winner shows the topsy-turvy alternate-universe world of American literature now.)

New Pop Lit at NaNoWriMo!

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New Pop Lit editors Karl Wenclas and Kathleen M. Crane are scheduled to make a rare public appearance at the Troy Public Library  on Thursday, November 17th in connection with National Novel Writing Month. Register for NaNoWriMo and read about Troy happenings here, then scroll down for information about our specific event. Or register for our event directly here.

For new writers, we intend ours to be THE NaNoWriMo event to attend. We’ve registered for NaNoWriMo ourselves. Kathleen has begun a new novel. Several of the stories in her collection, Aloha from Detroit, were taken from a novel she wrote. (Yes, writers are allowed to cannibalize their own work.)  Karl meanwhile has resurrected an unfinished novel of his own, excerpts of which were recently posted here.

We also of course edit one of the hottest literary sites around, New Pop Lit, whose mission is to discover exciting new writers. We’ve also published a print issue which we expect to be the foundation for a small press devoted to dynamic writing.

What are various ways to write a novel? How does one overcome writer’s block? How does the new author publish and promote the book once it’s finished? These are questions we’ll address at the event. Are we “experts”? No! We’re in the same boat as you the struggling writer– finding our way in a new publishing environment in which, over the past ten years, all the set rules have been overturned. Never have there been more options for authors– more opportunities. These are exciting times for writing and reading– we’re in the early stages of more changes to come.

See you in Troy next Thursday!

 

National Book Award Poetry Finalists

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LAST WEEK the National Book Foundation in New York, at the center of establishment arts culture, announced their nominees for this year’s Poetry award. Each one of the five finalists has been highly awarded by the current literary system– by foundations, universities and/or governments. One would expect this to be the best of the best.

We did a quick perusal of bios, then examined one poem from each poet. Our grades follow.

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Daniel Borzutzky. P.C. factor: Of Chilean heritage. The poem: “Sentence”

We found Borzutzky to be a cross between an Allen Ginsberg wannabe and a flarf poet who jams random words and sentence fragments together. The result is pretentious nonsense. We give him a point or two for being tongue-in-cheek, and to be fair, he’s called what he does “Non-Writing.” We won’t disagree. (And, he’s making quite a living from minimal artistic investment, so kudos for that.)

Grade: D.

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Rita Dove. P.C. factor: African-American woman. The poem: “Heart to Heart”

A short, simple poem which expresses clarity and emotion.

Grade: B.

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Peter Gizzi. P.C. factor: Token white guy. The poem: “In Defense of Nothing”

Before Gizzi became part of the official literary game, he was a Do-It-Yourselfer. We’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt– but in this case his poem is aptly titled.

Grade: D+.

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Jay Hopler. P.C. factor: Born in Puerto Rico. The poem: “So Many Birds to Kill and So Few Stones”

We like Hopler’s use of alliteration. Here’s a poet who’s given at least some thought to craft. Still, the title and content are a tad too sober-serious for our taste– as is Hopler’s bio photo. Hopler’s clearly going for the “Poetry is serious business!” crowd.

Grade: C.

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Solmaz Sharif. P.C. factor: Turkish-born woman. The poem: “Vulnerability Study”

A very simple poem– but we like the juxtapositions. Easy seriousness.

Grade: C.

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Conclusion: The poems are a tad better then we expected– we’ve seen far worse come out of the academy. But we’re still left saying, “Is that all there is?” Is this all we’re competing against, in our fledgling campaign to remake and renew the art form? At their best, the poems are unexceptional. Not one is going to be remembered and quoted by readers– in the way people quote Poe, or Dylan Thomas, or Shakespeare. Not one will cause a person to sit up in shock or surprise– or outrage– or roar with laughter.

We want better poems!

 

Interview with a Poet

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Pop poetry is news. Today we interview poet Bruce Dale Wise, who isn’t specifically a pop poet– though he tells us he’s been writing pop poems, as well as other forms, for years. Bruce is kind of a one-man poem factory. Not surprisingly, he includes poems in his answers.
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NEW POP LIT:  You’ve said the 1950’s was not the peak period of American poetry. In your opinion, what period was?

BRUCE DALE WISE:  I’m absolutely sure American poetry has not reached its peak yet. I think American poetry will go beyond all that it has achieved.
Though there are good poems and poets from every period, and each era has good qualities that the others lack, I lean to our time, the New Millennial period; the Internet has opened up the possibilities of American poetry, and I think it is exciting to be writing right now.

NPL:  In what ways is your poetry classical? In what ways is it postmodern?

BDW:  It’s classical in that I download ancients, like antanaclasis, am ironic, have epithets will unravel, use synecdoche, symbol and simile, employ metonymy, metaphor, and metre, weigh syllables, and like rhyme.

It’s Postmodern in that I intertext, like retro, am playful, have multiple identities, am hyperreal, and like the royal nonesuch.

NPL:  Please give capsule comments of any or all of the following:

-Edgar Allan Poe

psycho-dark, trochaic crow

-Emily Dickinson

balladeer in headlights

-Walt Whitman

diehard yawper, selfie-unleashed

-T.S. Eliot

new-rotic thief

-Ezra Pound

orphick maniac

-Robert Frost

circumspect rustic

-Kenneth Rexroth

trance-later

-Robert Lowell

robert-lowell
On the Mediocre Manifestations of Robert Lowell
for G. M. H. Thomson

The poetry of Robert Lowell would better serve as planks
in whalers or for firewood for stern New England Yanks.
That grand inquisitor of narcissism left his curse
of wooden, Puritannical, rhetoric’lly-stiff verse.
Lord Weary’s Castle is so ti-rrr-ing it wears one down;
its Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket bores one to the ground.
If Frost had been a piece of cardboard soaked in turpentine
for seventy long years, he’d have become a Lowell twine.
L. Bogan nailed his style—high-pitched, Baroque intensity—
a cross between Donne’s Metafizz and Melville’s density.

-Allen Ginsberg

howling be-attitude

-Sylvia Plath

bi-polar bearer

-Robert Creeley

pop-psych Cyclops

-Maya Angelou

uncaged macaw

-language poetry

languishing, anguishing, hang out the washing, wishing machine

-flarf poetry

Another Literary (Bowel) Movement

“No poet…has his complete meaning alone.”
—T. S. Eliot, Tradition and Individual Talent

If flarf is only so much avante-garde rehashed,
a cutting up of texts, bizarre trajectories,
then it is nothing more than bloviating, mashed-
montage junkspeech, a splash of crushing nectarines.
If flarf is only so much fluff without dream’s stuff,
its reject glories but reshuffled errancies,
a googol Google-goggles gone up in a guff,
then it’s damn yadda dada data dayadhvam.
If flarf is only one technique, a stylized puff,
a sweep of e. e. cummings going o’er the dam
of jetsam/flotsam/get-some/got-some crashflash smashed,
without tradition, it is individu’l spam.

-hip-hop

scop shop (pronounced shope shop)

-open mics

Poetic Slams

Poetic slams are all the rage. The people rise
up, yes, to let it all out—Pentacostally.
Perhaps they grab a mike with fire in their eyes,
and then proceed t’ orate, o, so passionately.
Like lovers giving lovers kisses, they begin
to let fly words. A hundred at a time, words flee
from out round mouths, o, hundreds at a time they spin.
And then it all starts to add up to thousands, yow,
so that one cannot count them all in such a din.
They go at it, like wolves out in the night—and howl—
intoxicated, soaring on linguistic cries
and verbal acrobatics, slamming, whamming, zow.

-poetry in the academy

itty-bitty uni-verse

NPL:  Who is the best current American poet, in your opinion?

BDW:  I sure as hell am trying to do my best, but as for best…

America is chock-a-block with poets; there are millions; and you can learn something from nearly all of ’em, even if it’s learning what not to do.

NPL:  How do you view the future of American poetry?

BDW:  Jetsonic, like the Jetsons, out there—boldly going where no one has gone before—at warp speed.
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(For more Bruce Dale Wise poetry see our Four Poems feature on Bruce.)

Tarzana Joe at New Pop Lit!

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Tarzana Joe is one of America’s few true poet celebrities, via his regular appearances on the nationally syndicated Hugh Hewitt Show. It’s therefore a mini-coup to obtain one of his poems for our Fun Pop Poetry feature. See the poem.

Tarzana Joe could be called the uncrowned champion of contemporary pop poetry. At the moment he is the master of the form.

American pop poetry has a long pedigree. Edgar Allan Poe was a pop poet through widely-known works like “The Bells,” “The Raven,” and “El Dorado.” Robert W. Service is another classic example of an American pop poet, whose “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” was wildly popular in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Our goal with our Fun Pop Poetry feature is to restore the profile of the pop poetry genre in America.

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POP POETRY TODAY

While Tarzana Joe is pop poetry’s leading personality, we’re discovering no shortage of other claimants to that designation. Among them:

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Blixa BelGrande, whose poetry ranges from the furious to the facetious to the outrageous.

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Cerebral poet Bruce Dale Wise  practices all poetic styles, pop included. In an interview, soon to be featured at New Pop Lit, Bruce doesn’t exclude himself from title of best current American poet. (Gotta love the confidence.)

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Craig Kurtz has been writing pop poetry since the 1990’s, usually with a historical motif.

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(Artwork by Dan Nielsen.)

Dan Nielsen pens witty Dorothy Parkerisms, in addition to crisp avant-garde stylings. (More coming from Dan next week.)

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Emerson Dameron runs the Weird Deer website, and has performed at open mics around the country. So far we’ve obtained only one pop poem from Emerson, but it was a good one.

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Other pop poets we’ve featured or will feature include spoken word veteran Wred Fright; ace short story writer Scott Cannon; and Tarzana Joe-wannabe Ellsworth B. Smith.

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Keep up with the pop poetry movement at Fun Pop Poetry.

 

edsel

24 Big Lit Names

There are 24 big lit names featured in our first “Lit Question of the Month” forum discussing the contemporary short story.

They’re from all parts of the new literary universe.

They gave 24 striking answers, here.

(Why the Edsel photo? The car is a classic example of a giant manufacturer trying to force-feed the public a product it didn’t want. Is the same thing happening with the giant publishing conglomerates?)