cover image THE PUSHCART PRIZE XXVI, 2002


, and Pushcart Prize Editors. . Pushcart, $30 (619pp) ISBN 978-1-888889-30-7

Begun in 1976 and "not expected by most to endure more than a year or two," according to Henderson, the annual Pushcart Prize, "the best of the small presses," has gained stature during the past quarter-century. This new anthology of winners not only features outstanding American poems, stories and essays from the past year, but also affirms the importance of the small, independent presses that published them. This mission is all the more timely in an industry currently dominated by five "empires," according to Henderson, who predicts that "there will always be a Pushcart Prize….. The louder the media noise, the stronger we [small presses] become." In each of the three genres appear familiar names as well as relative newcomers. Wole Soyinka and Louise Glück contribute moving poems, and there is a thoughtful one by Laura Kasischke on a young girl's fear of going bicycle riding with a group of boys. Ann Beattie and Russell Banks offer outstanding fiction; the less well-known Elizabeth Graver presents a haunting, absurd tale about a woman anticipating motherhood. The essays display the most stylistic variety; Denis Johnson weighs in on the Rainbow Gathering, and David Plante's theological questionings take him on an oddly comical road trip with his friend Mary Gordon. Many of the journals represented here are well-established standard bearers, such as the Paris Review, Ploughshares and the Kenyon Review. Some—such as Hayden's Ferry Review—may be less recognizable. Like the editors, any reader of this rich and voluminous text will be grateful to these Pushcart winners for "taking time, savoring ideas, daring to think long thoughts." (Nov. 15)