A better-than-average Pushcart this time around--with greater ambition and seriousness throughout, especially in the essays: six writers present pieces that add up to a mini-symposium on the place of art in times of crises. Wendell Berry waxes large and moral upon the ""degeneracy of language""; Richard Poirier makes an elaborate inside-out argument for the value of the ""emptied"" imagination; Christopher Clausen's ""Poetry in a Discouraging Time"" piously yearns for a classicism, any classicism; John Hollander finds (not particularly convincingly) a ""poetry of restitution"" in such old favorites of his as Ashbery and Ammons; Terrence Des Pres bids that we attend to the important dialectic of Brecht's poems; and Carolyn ForchÃ‰ fills in the chronology of experience that has led to her powerful poems of El Salvador. (Ironically, however, sneaking underneath all this high seriousness is a memoir of Yvor Winters by Thom Gunn that undercuts the essays--by demonstrating the equivocal, unstable, approximate nature of Winters' ferocious, right-and-wrong pronouncements.) In fiction, too, there are impressive standouts here: Charles Baxter's oblique, hard-surfaced story about perfection and failure; two dramatic and pity-filled vignettes by surgeon-author Richard Selzer; an odd, self-erasing story about paranoia by Richard Burgin; a powerful, punk monologue by Jayne Anne Phillips. And poetry is better served in this Puschart than it has been in quite a while: Charles Wright, Derek Walcott, C. K. Williams, Mary Oliver, Rita Dove, and Gary Soto all offer poems with heft and incision and extra imaginative juice. All in all, a superior anthology.