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RIC Prof. Robert Foreman Wins Pushcart Prize

Robert Foreman, RIC assistant professor of English

Robert Foreman, RIC assistant professor of English

 

A short story by RIC English professor Robert Foreman has been selected for the Pushcart Prize, which honors the best American poetry, short fiction and essays published in small presses over the previous year. Foreman’s piece “Cadiz, Missouri,” which first appeared in “AGNI 75,” will be reprinted in “The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses XXXVIII 2014 Edition.” This series of anthologies have won honors from the National Book Critics Circle, Publishers Weekly, Poets & Writers, Barnes & Noble and others, and has been acclaimed by readers and reviewers internationally.

Written in the tone of a memoir, “Cadiz, Missouri” is about a woman who moves with her husband to Midwest Missouri, a place she considers to be of relative obscurity. She said, “There is something about this part of the country that seems to cultivate pointless, dull oddities.” She herself has an odd preoccupation with killing the crickets and spiders she finds in her home.

“I threw a French-English dictionary at the creature. It leapt aside to safety, just a split second before the book landed. I threw another, it leapt again. I then spent ten minutes trying to kill it in this fashion. Every time – or almost every time – it saw my literature coming, it jumped out of the way. I threw Native Son, Regarding the Pain of Others, one of Charlie’s old industry reports, and a Kafka anthology, before I finally crushed it with an old copy of Dune.

One day she hears on the news that a tornado wiped out the neighboring town of Cadiz. The disaster both validates her feelings about Missouri as a “doomed” place and fascinates her.

Foreman said the main character illustrates how desensitized people can become to the tragedy of others. Though she obsessively Googles information about the tornado’s wreckage, she never visits the nearby town and even turns down a request to temporarily house one of its homeless victims.

Near as Cadiz was, and even after much of the wreckage had supposedly been cleared, I was not about to drive there and see the ex-town for myself, despite the curiosity that kept me coming back to pictures of it in ruins. I had spent so much time thinking about Cadiz, and watching it, without venturing in, that to go there now would have been embarrassing, like breaking a deeply uncomfortable silence with an ex-friend who has become a virtual stranger.

“She has all these ways of accessing the tragedy, and yet she is completely closed off from it,” said Foreman. “It illustrates how we can be these very informed observers, and yet be totally removed.”

A native of Wheeling, W.Va., Foreman is a first-year assistant professor at RIC who teaches an advanced workshop in nonfiction and an introduction to creative writing. His fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in the “Michigan Quarterly Review,” “The Massachusetts Review,” “Pleiades” and elsewhere. He recently completed a book of nonfiction on inheritance, titled “We Are All Dealers in Used Furniture.” This manuscript is now in the hands of publishers.