cover image Pushcart Prize XXXV: Best of the Small Presses 2011

Pushcart Prize XXXV: Best of the Small Presses 2011

Edited by Bill Henderson, Pushcart (Norton, dist.), $18.95 (580p) ISBN 978-1888889598

Henderson reminds us in the latest anthology showcasing the "best" poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from this year's crop of literary magazines, that 2010 was a monumental year for the small press: Paul Harding's Tinkers, published by Bellevue, won the Pulitzer Prize, after all. And these Pushcart picks generally substantiate Henderson's claim that contemporary literature is thriving, not dying. Like many "best of" assemblages, it is best enjoyed in small portions, thus avoiding the risk of taking in too many at a time, at which point the attempt for quirkiness and resonance begins to detract from the singular power these stories, essays, and poems genuinely do hold. This year's volume opens with "The River Nemunas" by Anthony Doerr, originally published in Tin House and, in keeping with the competitive theme, this story clearly wins the cart. Other notables include Tony Hoagland's poem "Victory," Bob Hicok's "Watchful," Ravi Shankar's "Barter," the story "Shelter" by Susan Perabo, and the essay "Mot" by Sarah Einstein. In an age of the daily death knell—a "gleeful slaughter" as Henderson calls the domino demise of small and literary presses and publications—the Pushcart, at 35, continues to age with defiance and grace. (Nov 15.)