cover image Pushcart Prize Number Eighteen

Pushcart Prize Number Eighteen

Sybil Stenberg, Author, Bill Henderson, Author Pushcart Press $29 (0p) ISBN 978-0-916366-89-6

``Words are too valuable to be driven by commerce,'' says Henderson in his introduction, and promptly dedicates the introductory notes to poetry. Of the 61 pieces drawn from small presses and literary magazines, about half are poems, ranging from the lushness of Tony Hoagland's ``In the Land of the Lotus Eaters'' to the sharper lines of Bruce Weigl's ``Shelter.'' Highlights of the 10 essays also include a poet's--Robert Hass's--personal and (not surprisingly) poetical observations of ``Wallace Stevens'' as well as ``Choosing Your Names,'' an amusing deconstruction of academic namesmanship by Lowell Edmonds writing as Kother Wa-Khasis. Choosing from among the stories is doubly difficult. Tony Ardizzone's wonderfully descriptive ``Larabi's Ox,'' Molly Giles's wry ``The Writers' Model'' and Scott Bradfield's fabulous ``The Parakeet and the Cat'' are a few, as are Joseph Maiolo's gentle portrait of a Catholic looking for the mystery of his childhood religion in ``The Pilgrim Virgin'' and David Foster Wallace's reefer-inspired Oblomovism, ``Three Protrusions.'' Two especially touching stories involve poor, older women: ``Marie'' is Edward P. Jones's tale of a woman who tries to respond to written requests from a deceased Social Security bureaucrat; ``Convicta et Combusta'' is Joanna Scott's story of an ancient heroine who wanders fearfully through the fantastical Coney Island of Steeplechase, Luna and Dreamland. Not every piece will be to every reader's taste, but the combination of variety and quality is a testament to the numerous readers and editors. (Oct.)