Every November, writers celebrate nominations for the Pushcart Prize. The selections are made in the spring and the anthology is published in the fall of the following year. The Pushcart Prize is recognition of excellent literary work published by independent literary presses. For the past handful of years, Sinister Wisdom has participated in this work by nominating six selections from the four issues we publish each year.
Sinister Wisdom authors are always thrilled to be nominated. Deciding which pieces to nominate each year is always difficult. Part of editing a journal is loving all the work published. Each November, I have the pleasure of reading through it all and selecting six pieces for the nominations. This year, I want to share the pieces and briefly give my reasons for including them in the nominations. I’ll present them in the order in which they appeared in the journal. During 2017, Sinister Wisdom published four issues. I nominated work from each issue.
In January 2017, Sinister Wisdom published Sinister Wisdom 103: Celebrating the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival which includes “Original Flow: Dance with Shadow Spirit” by Yaniyah Pathfinder Pearson. This issue was a very special issue of Sinister Wisdom and Pearson’s piece reflects that. It opens with this sentence, “From the first moment I stepped foot on the land at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival nearly twenty years ago, I recognized it as sacred ground.” Part of my work in nominating for the Pushcart Prize is not only to recognize excellent work published in the journal, but also to lift up work that is crucial to lesbians and lesbian readers. This piece, with it’s history of the festival and the linkage it makes between a place both real and imagined and the sacred is an important part of who we are as lesbians and what Sinister Wisdom does with its publishing.
The second piece nominated does similar important work. In Sinister Wisdom 104: Lesbianima Rising, Michelle Crone wrote a piece titled, “Women’s Music Festivals and Lesbian Feminist Process.” Crone’s work adds to the richness of our understanding of lesbian culture created through festivals by considering an additional dimension of not only the space but also the intentional way we engage with one another as humans through the festival culture. Together these two pieces tell an important story about lesbians and our worlds in lyrical, imaginative ways.
The four other nominations were of poems that appeared in Sinister Wisdom 105: Passion Fruit and Wet Flowers and Sinister Wisdom 106: The Lesbian Body. “Perse” by Suzanne Gardinier and “The Blue Notebook” by Staci Schoenfeld (who now writes as Avery M. Guess) both appeared in Sinister Wisdom 105, and “The Three Birds of the Milky Way” by Donika Kelly and “Pen Pals” by Jenny Factor appeared in Sinister Wisdom 106. These four poets reflect a range of lesbian poets doing exciting and important work today. Gardinier has a full body of work beginning in the 1980s and extending to today; she continues to produce significant poems that are lyrical, haunting, and important. Jenny Factor’s 2001 book, Unraveling at the Name, thrilled me the first time I read it and she continues to write poems that are important and meaningful. “Pen Pals” is a delight. Donika Kelly’s first book, Bestiary, was widely praised and important; it is fantastic to have new work from her in Sinister Wisdom. Staci Schoenfeld / Avery M. Guess writes daring, brave, and important poems; she is a poet to watch. Read the Sinister Wisdom selections for each of these writers and then seek out more of their work. You will be happy that you did.
I could not be more proud of these six selections from Sinister Wisdom to nominate for the Pushcart Prize. Sinister Wisdom has yet to be selected for inclusion in the Pushcart anthology. I hope it will happen one year. For now, though, I am happy to have our authors and our journal in dialogue with other independent literary presses around the country as great work is recognized with nominations for the Pushcart Prize.