San José State University’s literary publication, Reed Magazine, has earned its first Pushcart Prize for a poem published in its 153rd issue — “Father’s Belt” by Kurt Luchs.
Described as “the most honored literary project in America,” the Pushcart Prize recognizes small presses and literary journals that feature “the best poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot published in the small presses over the previous year.” The winning poem will be reprinted in the anthology, “Pushcart Prize XLVI: Best of the Small Presses 2022 Edition.”
Luchs’ poem was originally selected by a team of San José State students enrolled in English 133, a course that offers hands-on editorial, marketing, and publication experience, including learning how to usher submissions through a rigorous vetting process. Poetry editor Anne Cheilek, ’23 MFA Creative Writing, said that Issue 153 received more than 4,000 poems, from which they selected 18 for the print journal and an additional six that appeared on the Reed website.
“This is Reed’s first Pushcart Prize,” Cheilek said, adding that the editorial team has only been submitting nominations for a few years. “I can’t help but feel that it is a sign of our superlative quality that we earned one of these coveted awards so quickly.”
The poem is dark and challenging, written from the point of view of a belt used to discipline children. But the SJSU editorial staff determined that “the poignant message, the artistic merit, and the emotional catharsis delivered by the work were too great, and too important, to pass up.”
Luchs originally submitted the poem to the magazine’s Edwin Markham Prize for poetry. Though he didn’t win, he was thrilled to have it included in Issue 153 and honored to learn that it had won a Pushcart Prize.
“I was quite pleased to have work appear in Reed, even before the unexpected windfall of a Pushcart Prize,” he said.
“Winning this prize is for sure the biggest thing that has happened to me thus far as a writer. I’m so grateful that the Reed staff nominated me. I didn’t even realize they had. Pushcart’s annual anthology is sold in every bookstore in the country, and every poet I’ve ever admired who is still alive will probably read ‘Father’s Belt.’”
“Each year the magazine gets better because we build on what the staff has done in years past,” said Emerita Professor of English and Comparative Literature Cathleen Miller, who served as the editor-in-chief of Issue 153 prior to retiring.
“We continue to learn new and better ways of publishing the journal, and as our reputation has grown, we are receiving submissions from first-rate writers and artists around the globe.”
Issue 152, which was supervised by Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Keenan Norris, published a piece that was named as a notable essay in “Best American Essays,” another prestigious honor.
“These recognitions are the culmination of years of hard work and advancement by both the faculty who have led Reed and the amazing dedication of the staff,” Miller added.
Described as “California’s oldest literary magazine,” Reed will soon recognize its 155th anniversary. Under the stewardship of English and Comparative Literature Lecturer Helen Meservey, the magazine has recently published Issue 154. The winning poem also appears in Luchs’ full-length debut poetry collection, “Falling in the Direction of Up,” released May 1.