Cocteau liked to think that he was kissed by all nine muses. Cocteau is a poet. Malcolm Cowley is a poet, too, but was only kissed by Clio, the muse of history. One can create a generation, or one can record a generation. Exile's Return, Cowley's famous account of American expatriates in Europe during the Twenties, will no doubt always be a standard work on the subject. Blue Juniata: Collected Poems, in which Cowley tells ""the story of my life,"" rather than that of his fabled contemporaries, disappears in a sea of other poet's styles and the driftwood of a dim personality. Too bad, and unexpected. Dadaist, radical, New Republic editor, tripping from Laforgue to Marx--Cowley must have been a lively figure, following the fashions, movements, sensibilities of the day, keeping in step. Perhaps, though, that explains the slightness, ""experimental"" correctness, ""advanced"" opinions of his verse, whether hymning a Pennsylvania boyhood (crackerbarrel naturalism or lyricism like Sandburg, Aiken, Frost), or metropolitan satires (Eliot, Pound), or the boom-boom of the Thirties, issues and causes (MacLeish, Kenneth Fearing). Talent is there (""The Lost People,"" ""Roxanne,"" ""The Dry Season""), but nothing much is done with it or comes of it: bittersweet disillusionment, ironic asides, a little magazine facility with words, climbing stairs to Nothingness (the personal theme), or marching under the red banner (journalistic social consciousness). On Sacco and Vanzetti: ""March on, O dago Christs, while we/ march on to spread your names abroad/ like ashes in the winds of God."" Sentiments flame for a moment, light up the sky, are ashes ever after. . . .