The good news is that this year's Pushcart Prize has mainly honored unknown writers; the bad news is that this fact hasn't helped raise the quality of this perennially unsatisfying anthology. The poems selected by Philip Booth and Jay Meek reflect a certain orthodoxy--a norm of confessional sentimentality and stylistic mediocrity that encompasses the most familiar names included here: Sharon Olds, Dennis Schmitz, Stephen Dunn, Thomas Lux, Carol Muske, and their ilk. Fiction boasts some Fine representatives--exciting new talents such as Mark Richard, Marjorie Sandor, and Melissa kentricchia. But nonfictional prose, usually well showcased in this annual, here includes a rather maudlin memoir by Edward Hirsch, two conversational pieces of lit-crit (by Francine Prose and Leonard Michaels), and a conventional literary essay on Zbigniew Herbert by Seamus Heaney, a piece certain to find its way into hardcovers regardless of appearance here. The Paris Review accounts for two of the strongest works: a memoir of Samuel Beckett by Lawrence Shainberg and Rich Bass's story, ""Where the Sea Used To Be."" All in all, Richard Ford's chatty introduction--a recollection of his time in the literary minor-leagues--nicely captures the spirit of the shoestring enterprises that contribute to this hodgepodge of new writing.