Poet, critic, editor, and director of the University of Wisconsin (Madison) creative writing program, Wallace collects about a hundred sonnets of varying quality in a volume that proudly proclaims its democratic aesthetic-his colloquial poems insist on their native folksiness unlike them there fancy elitists with their foreign airs. Such is the level of sophistication in poems that stretch for rhyme as often as they stretch for significance. Sequences include too many pointless poems that record his typical American boyhood ""back in the fifties,"" with nostalgia for TV kid shows, the funny pages, sci-fi flicks, anything combustible, milk toast, and Weird Tales magazine. Another long sequence dwells on his father's early struggles with MS, and the effect it had on Wallace's all-American life of baseball and playing war. Full of touchy-feely sensitivity, he suffers guilt for (among other things) making impolitic remarks in class, watching porno, and, when he was 18, delighting in Kennedy's assassination. Despite his crude Whitmanic pose, Wallace does turn out a dozen or so solid sonnets, especially when he avoids heavy-handed ironies and embraces his own frivolity.