Our Pushcart Nominations for 2021 and Why

THE REASON FOR OUR CHOICES

THE GOAL with Pushcart nominations isn’t the nominations themselves– though they’re important in giving plaudits to many of those generous enough to let us publish their work– but to have a nomination selected for publication in the collection. Toward that end, every year we’ve been sending the work of our nominees in an increasingly eye-catching, colorful presentation. (Consistent with our aesthetic.) This includes envelope, cover letter, and tear sheets of the works themselves. “Is it possible to stand out among hundreds, maybe thousands of mailings?” is the question.

IN the materials Pushcart Press sends publishers, they make it clear they prefer nominations from actual print publications. This is in keeping with their name. Though we ran an excellent array of stories, poems, and non-fiction at our site, from some of the best writers in the literary realm, we’ve decided this year to choose our nominations strictly from our two 2021 print publications. “Zeens”– which in their ethos and reality embody everything Bill Henderson sought to honor when he began his annual anthology. Zeens– in-house produced; hand made– define an upstart press.

The selections we’ve made from the two issues are outstanding. Attention-getting themselves?

HERE ARE OUR CHOICES:

From Literary Fan Magazine #1, published March 2021:

-“How I Survived 2020,” non-fiction by Chrissi Sepe.

-“On Translation,” non-fiction by Andrea Gregovich.

From Extreme Zeen #2, published June 2021:

-“Black Hole,” poetry by Rose Knapp.

-“Tom Preisler 4,” poetry by Tom Preisler.

-“Fuel Injection,” poetry by Tom Will.

-“You Are You,” fiction by Jo Bloomfield.

Many thanks to all the writers online and off who allowed us to feature their work!

The UNLV Believer Mag Matter

WILL THE BELIEVER MAGAZINE BE SAVED?

A host of questions are raised by the decision of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to shut down iconic literary journal The Believer.

The Believer magazine has long been the flagship for a particular kind of upper-middle class literary self-importance. From the beginning they presented themselves as a better-than-thou cultural aristocracy, as indicated in their “belief in the good book review” and “nod to the inherent good” (per Wikipedia).

The Chief Question: Will that presumed aristocracy– including the many names published at the magazine, and the magazine’s founders– rouse themselves to save one of the pillars of their kind of literature? To date there’s been hand-wringing, but no action.

Other Questions:

-WHY did the journal fail so spectacularly to pay its way that UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute felt compelled to drop it from their line-up?

-IS the type of precious-if-not-pretentious literary writing featured in the journal itself to blame?

-WILL there be pushback from UNLV’s faculty and students for the university’s choice to drop the publication (while at the same time spending $43 million per year on its sports teams)? Is this an indication of higher education’s real priorities? In an era when sports are dominated by gambling, and the gambling industry remains centered in Las Vegas, should a university located in that city be more concerned about the message sent by its bread-and-circuses choices? (Or, is UNLV in fact a sports program with attached university, instead of the reverse?)

Priorities? Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

In the meantime, at least one staffer– Kristen Radtke, The Believer‘s listed press contact person– has already jumped ship, taking a position with The Verge as art director.

Does anyone believe in The Believer?

(FOR THE RECORD, the author of this editorial was once discussed in an issue of The Believer, in its first year, 2003. I retain some nostalgia for its existence, am surprised no one else appears to strongly feel the same.)

Do we live in a casino society?

Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Where’s the Literary Underground?

FINDING THE UNDERGROUND

WHERE is underground culture?

NO ONE online is underground. We’re on a system this instant– the Internet– that was initiated and in large part paid for by the United States Defense Department. An electronic arrangement where every word can be recorded and tracked with a few keyboard clicks.

With our new state-of-the-art print zeens, we at New Pop Lit are partially underground. They’re handmade in-house, and unregistered. No barcodes.

Why is this important? Because print underground literature is an actual alternative– samizdat!— a free space of ideas not subject to self-appointed hall monitors and censors. Breaking the hive mind. No bureaucrats, official or unofficial. In the tradition of Thomas Paine, Davy Crockett, Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, Robert McAlmon, the Beats– and including Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a host of other international samizdat writers. The genuine article. The authentic American yawp.

THE ANALOG EXPERIENCE

We’ve begun exploring ideas behind new analog culture (vinyl, zines, film) in a newsletter, The Analog Experience. We’ll soon send copies to our “prestige” customers– those who’ve purchased three or more of our zeens. BUT you can subscribe to four issues now at our POP SHOP.

Doing so will keep you abreast of underground happenings, ideas, and debates. Plus in some small way it keeps this project alive.

Consider it a door to another world. A portal to underground culture.

XXXX

Fight the Monolith!

Which Side Are YOU On?

c/o Kamil Grzybek

We are watching in real time the conglomerization and monopolization of everything.

The gigantic corporations every day become more gigantic. Amazon WalMart Google Disney Apple Microsoft CVS Facebook growing larger encroaching over more real estate removing privacy small business competition independence options and they decide who’s given a platform is allowed to speak to market to express contrary opinions or ideas.

We’ve all become members of the Herd. Everyone is plugged into the Hive.

HOW do we get out of it? Is there a way to escape?

YES! The escape is in new analog culture. This includes authentically-independent literature, of the kind offered at New Pop Lit‘s POP SHOP. We’re making plans to move more of our operation offline as we operate under the radar screen of mass A.I.-generated conformity, orthodoxy, and groupthink. To stop having everything monitored and recorded online is the first step toward living once again as free-thinking beings. Our literature, if nowhere else, should be an intellectual refuge free from raging ideological mobs left, right, and center– the blind unthinking stampeding throngs on all sides.

Escape into Art– and freedom.

(The contents of our upcoming analog in-house-produced newsletters as well as our artistic print zeens now on sale are UNavailable in pdf form or any other way on the Internet, except for brief glimpses used for announcement purposes.)

XXX

Zines or Zeens?

RETURNING TO PRINT

THE WAY to think about the difference between zines and zeens is to think lo-fi versus hi-fi. Or cassettes versus vinyl.

Traditionally, print zines– real zines, of the photocopied-at-a-coffeeshop variety– were inexpensively made, black-and-white images and text on basic 20-lb copy paper. The DIY punk rawness of the presentation was the point. Illustrations were cut-ups and collages, for a sense of chaos. Type was the smallest possible, words scarcely readable, and there was a lot of it. A few classic zinesters are still using something akin to this style, among them Joe Smith of Alternative Incite:

At the same time (90s; early 2000s) there were a lot of art zines around, which were raw in a different way. Unique shapes and sizes. More colors; usually better paper. Hand-colored pages with unique drawings and designs. Even material glued on them– feathers, sequins, felt: anything. Words themselves often hand-lettered. The drawback to more intense artistry was that the number of copies which could be made was strictly limited. Sometimes as few as 20 or 25.

THE ZEEN DIFFERENCE

With our new print zeens we’ve taken every advantage of print zines and bumped them up a level. There’s rawness and authenticity– combined with quality. Quality materials, designs, and writing. We’ve emphasized the analog experience, so that words and images pop off the page. The writing we’ve accepted or solicited for each zeen has fit the particular aesthetic of that zeen, so that each one– Extreme Zeen 1 and 2, ZEENITH, Crime City U.S.A. and Literary Fan Magazine— has its own individual personality.

Purchase a couple or three at our POP SHOP and see.

XXXX

The Art of Pop Poetry

POETRY NEEDS HOOKS!

MUCH DISCUSSION has taken place in recent days– based on the firing of Danielle Rose by Barren Magazine— about the place of poetry in contemporary society.

Is anyone asking the question of HOW to best connect the poetic art with the general public?

At New Pop Lit we’ve tried to do it in a variety of ways. At our online site, by publishing what we consider the highest quality poetry we can find.

For our new print-zeens, we’ve sought high-quality poems that, for the most part, are also visual and concise. Poems which can be illustrated or used with designs in some way to make the reading experience more striking.

Then, also, there have been our experiments a few years ago with Fun Pop Poetry.

FUN POP POETRY

Fun Pop Poetry was a feature we ran for a number of months at one of our blogs. (Which was then later used for the uncompleted “All-Time American Writers Tournament”– yet another example that we’ve been experimenting with a number of things.)

The idea behind Fun Pop Poetry was understanding the roots of poetry lie in oral culture. Pre-literary. Poetic devices such as meter and rhyme were used to make recitations of the spoken word musical and memorable. Rhyme and other euphonic tricks are hooks that embed themselves in the poet’s– and the audience’s– brain.

EVEN Shakespeare’s work– the soliloquys in particular– though usually written in blank verse, has hooks all over the place: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. . . .”

Which make them easy to remember and a joy to recite.

The idea of hooks in poetry is akin to hooks in pop songs. Which brings us to pop poetry.

New Pop Lit‘s Kathleen Marie Crane writes poetry with hooks which stay in your head– is in fact the master at it. For instance, “You Don’t Stand a Chance,” which she recorded for our Open Mic feature.

Or, this previously unpublished poem:

Grand Mackerel Spa and Resort 2

Pre-fab flab floating flotsam hotel pool

Blank faced guests spoon their morning gruel

Evening drunks form a fluorescent queue

Craft designer drinks served by a skeleton crew

Mirthless grins light dim empty faces

Labyrinth of vacant rooms with no human traces

Pint glasses clink with a hollow sound

Here’s to burning this fucking hotel to the ground!

XXX

How could anyone not remember that first line? (Or not have fun reciting it?)

Kath has written many other pop poems, some of which are at the aforementioned blog under the Fun Pop Poetry heading, under a pseudonym. We hope to someday collect those and many more from other poets who participated in that feature, into a zeen. If so, it will be colorful.

XXX

The Writer In a Suitcase ™

NOW AVAILABLE!

Popping up in writing programs across the country!

The Writer In a Suitcase ™ comes packaged in a box, and his mind– what there is of one– exists in a box. More, he puts all the people he meets into mental boxes, with labels on them. He perceives the world strictly through well-ordered labels and boxes.

Ease of Use! There’s no need for The Writer In a Suitcase ™ to monitor himself, as so many other writers now are doing. This writer comes pre-screened, proper acceptable attitudes built in, so to speak. There is zero possibility of The Writer In a Suitcase ever thinking an untoward thought, much less saying one.

Ease of Storage! At the end of a day of writing or editorial duties, The Writer In a Suitcase ™ can be put safely away in a drawer, there to be retrieved in the morning without a single change in perception, ideology, or beliefs. Guaranteed!

Though his literary style may be rather wooden, bloodless and humorless, without the failings of normal writers, this is small price to pay for the predictability of his writing. No surprises! No sarcasm, sneering, anger. No hate or lust. No mocking or violence or thunder: Nothing. Not a single self-generated emotion. What comes out of The Writer in the Suitcase‘s mouth is only what you the artistic gatekeeper put into it. This writer is utterly completely safe.

Order yours today!

-K.W.

The Strategy Behind Zeens

RETHINKING THE LITERARY PRODUCT

FROM THE START the thinking behind our zeens was to create a better literary product. We’ve done that by incorporating color and design into the inside pages, not just the covers. Big Four publishers– as well as some boutique outfits– do this to a minimal extent, usually for non-fiction offerings (on diet and fashion particularly). Seldom for novels or short story collections.

The idea no doubt in not doing it– besides inertia– is to keep the reader focused on the text. Our approach is to enhance the text by incorporating design into the narrative. Use of colors– pages or text– or changes of font, or font size, to emphasize conflict or emotion. Breaking all accepted publishing rules in so doing. 

Being from Detroit, we’re influenced as much by car design– emphasis on sleekness and efficiency– as by standard graphic design.

In addition to innovative design, we also use different types of printing paper to enhance the visual effect of our zeens. The goal: to have words, colors, and art “pop” off the page. Effects which can never be achieved on an electronic screen.

Our first zeen, Extreme Zeen, released in April 2020 during the first surge of the pandemic, is fairly crude by the standards of those we’ve produced since, but does contain striking visuals, including a blown-up photo of a rose to illustrate a poem about same, and psychedelic centerpiece art, “Lucy in the Sky,” by our own Kathleen M. Crane.

Our latest, Extreme Zeen 2, goes further in utilizing design– not solely to enhance the individual stories and poems, but predominantly to project a consistent aesthetic theme throughout the issue. The overall impact is both apparent and subliminal.

Among our models are upstart record companies of the past like Motown and Subpop, but also the many new EV motor companies of now who are challenging the giants. We consider Extreme Zeen 2 a prototype pointing the way toward further innovation in creating the Ultimate Literary Publication.

(Purchase one of our zeens at our POP SHOP.)

X X X X X X X

Lessons from Vinyl Records?

VINYL IS BACK!

c/o Erika Records

The sale of vinyl records has increased greatly over the past fifteen years– 27.5 million vinyl LPs sold in the U.S. last year according to Forbes magazine– which makes them more than mere collectors items.

A plethora of online music sites explain the resurgence. Ted Goslin with Yamaha Music gives four reasons for it: -that vinyl is tangible -the cool factor -the listening experience, and -the sound quality. Another online site says it’s because vinyl is “warmer, fuller, more authentic,” and credits also the artwork of vinyl records.

One of the more thorough analyses of the phenomenon is this essay by an outfit called Way Back When at Medium:

Additionally, the cover art on albums is displayed in a much better fashion on vinyl records. Don’t believe us, just go to a vinyl record shop and compare the art on your phone compared to having it in the physical. There are so many little details missed within the artwork when it’s on your phone than when you hold the album in a physical version.

Vinyl records are also a sign of someone having an exquisite taste in music.

THE QUESTION

The question for us at New Pop Lit is whether these same reasons can apply to literary products– such as the zeens we’re selling at our POP SHOP.

Zeens are about the analog reading experience. They’re designed to be viscerally unique, with emphasis on quality of paper, art, and a lot of color, to create a warmer, more tangible presence than any other print publication. More real than digital.

(Can people truly be satisfied spending most of their waking hours in the fake two-dimensional world of electronic screens, when a 3-D alternative is everywhere around us?)

Will the analog revolt extend to the literary field? We hope to find out.

VVVVVVVVV

Types of Cultural Change

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF CULTURAL CHANGE

1.) GRADUAL CHANGE

The kind of change which improves a skill or art within-the-field, but doesn’t expand the field or the field’s footprint within the greater culture. Most often the change is incremental, such as modest improvements in technique.

For example, the sport of tennis. In men’s tennis where every top player has a high level of skill and talent, Novak Djokavic has been able to stand out through changes in his training and diet.

The problem with gradual change is that it’s not enough to keep interest in a sport like tennis from dropping in relation to the greater culture, as other sports and other cultural happenings move forward at a faster rate.

This situation applies to literature and especially with the more esteemed “literary” end of the spectrum. MFA programs train students in refining their craft, polishing their short stories, and the sentences within, without changing the basic template. Without rethinking anything about the art. The nature of the writing workshop in fact discourages experimentation, or any writing which might look “bad” or disturbing because it’s trying something new.

The result: an unexciting literary game which presents always the same-old same-old. The predictable and been done.

2.) RADICAL CHANGE

A leap forward. The kind of change which drastically remakes an art and in so doing creates an explosion of interest in it. For instance, the way rock n roll beginning in 1955 exploded onto national then international consciousness and completely remade the music business, expanding interest and multiplying the size of the market many times over.

In sports, an example would be the emergence of Babe Ruth as a star circa 1920. He’d started out as a pitcher. With nothing to lose in his perfunctory at bats– expected to make an out– he began swinging for the fences, taking huge swings at pitches, thereby striking out at an increased rate but when connecting, hitting the ball for a home run. This went 180 degrees against the practice of the time of playing it safe, the goal to just make contact with the ball and get on base.

Ruth’s monster home runs caused massive fan interest. New York Yankee attendance doubled, while many other baseball teams smashed their previous attendance records due to the Ruth effect. Babe Ruth became for ten years the most popular figure in America.

THE QUESTION is whether or not this kind of change could happen to the sleepy literary game?

What it would take is allowing writers to embarrass themselves as they try new ideas– to “make outs”– as they work toward making the art fresh and exciting.

If it can be imagined it can happen.