Not to say it's not a cool thing to be nominated, but moreso on the smaller level of the individual publication, that the editor appreciates your work, thinks you are among "best" of what they published in a given year--definitely a much smaller and more manageable field than the morrass of contemporary journals. The Best of the Web anthology actually does this very same thing and is definitely more democratic and varied in it's aesthetic (again, I'm a little biased since WA is technically a Sundress Publication.). Even still any anthology still comes down to the particular aesthetic bent of the judge doing the final choosing. But once a nomination has been sent off into the esteemed Pushcart world by most little guys & gals, it's like dropping a quarter into the ocean.
Admittedly, I have a dislike in general of most of what Helen Vendler has ever said (especially if it's woefully racist and elitist like this), and am definitely biased toward Rita Dove (whose Thomas & Beulah did much in the way of my own poetic development about 15 years ago). I immediately take issue with the 175 poets comment. I can name at least twice that many whose work is of interest living and writing in the anthologie's timeline (not even including the younger folks writing now born after 1971.) Any anthology is simply a sampling of the work that that particular curator feels lends itself to being brought together and put forward as a grouping for consideration. This is true at any level, every journal is pretty much the same thing, every press's roster of titles, same thing.
I would never have the ego to say that what we are publishing with dgp is the "best" work by women authors out there, but merely the things that I come across / get to consider that strike my own fancy in some way, that I feel compelled to put out into the world because of their awesomeness. Again "best" acording to who? to what? Dove, in her response, gets it spot-on here: