The poetry editor of The New Yorker has put together a superb collection of short stories by 20th-century American poets -- from Edna St. Vincent Millay to John Berryman to Elizabeth Bishop to Donald Justice to Merwin, Plath, Wilbur, Kizer, O'Hara (Frank), Schuyler (poets like Williams or Aiken who had published books of short stories are not included). What is shocking but not perhaps surprising is how far superior these stories are to practically everything being done in fiction today (whether van, middle, or rear guard). Many of the inclusions tend (rather expectedly) to be internal, first person, dispensing with the mechanics of getting people in and out of rooms (or bed), flowing with associative ease to the various hearts of the matter, but there is always a clear sense both of the world and the writer's head, simply written without any smirking self-consciousness. The last thing these stories are about is the act of writing and they are unhackneyed, fresh, unformulaic, full of the mystery one will never find in Joyce Carol Oates (or, for that matter, Norman Mailer). This is an essential anthology because it expands knowledge of what fiction can be, and also because it presents work (such as Kenneth Koch's virtually unknown ""The Postcard Collection"") that until now could often only be read in the pages of some defunct, recherche literary magazine.