Still published from a garden shed, the venerable small-press anthology turns 32.
“We children of the spirit are yesterday’s news, if we ever were news,” laments founding editor and tutelary spirit Henderson (Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction, 2000, etc.), who mourns the loss of Pushcart’s managing editor and mascot dog in 2007. He might be comforted by the thought that he has helped nourish many a literary career, even if the biggest news is not likely to come from the main run of his contributors, who bear MFAs and teach at universities and colleges throughout the land. They also seem a touch less diverse, culturally speaking, than those of years past, but they provide many pleasures here all the same. Paul Zimmer muses on the teachings of the medieval Cathars: “If you imagine hearing music when the moon is full, you might consider turning a few circles in its light.” Melanie Rae Thon provides an evocative story about yet another tragedy on an Indian reservation. David Kirby’s wonderful poem, “Skinny-Dipping with Pat Nixon,” features a wicked aside on Laura Bush’s recent National Book Festival: “if you have too many writers at a book festival / people get the wrong idea.” Herbert Gold offers wounded reminiscences about the habitually wounding Saul Bellow. The collection even boasts a brief, lyrical poem by Robert Bly, whose once-legendary output has tapered in old age. There are a few dubious moments, too: stories too steeped in urban tough guy-isms and potty-mouthery to be seemly for nice Iowa grads, a few pieces of mundanely world-weary poetry, a long so-what rambling on pianist Glenn Gould.
A mixed bag, as with all Pushcart volumes. But mostly good, and with plenty of bang for the buck.