Howard Nemerov's eight books of poetry are made one here, and the mass isn't very fortuitous. From the late Forties on, Nemerov's allegiance to the rational, the ""vaudeville and critique,"" and the gently donnish comment never varies. Rhyme and meter serve a low-key descriptiveness that strips poetic raw material of all immediacy. So when Nemerov writes directly and straight--up in poems like ""Going Away,"" ""A Day on the Big Branch,"" ""The Mud Turtle""--the voice at hand comes as a compelling refreshment. It's rare, though. Too often the poems write about the world and are not written from it; words like ""anamnesis"" and references to Priam and Agamemnon in a poem about football seal the ivy around these poems and leave no disturbance. American poets, Nemerov notes disdainfully in a late poem, ""start out Emily and wind up Walt""--but a little variance in tone and matter and gist might have made the constant Howard a bit more rewarding.