John Ciardi is a tour-de-force poet; at best, he's brilliant, buoyant and embattled; at worst, he's a word juggler, party-trickster. These new poems, self-styled ""experimentals"", deal with clever and contemporary themes a la bomb shelters, consumers and commuters, suburbia and ""such spas as flesh"" vodka-and-tonic and death, all done in clever and contemporary modes:- the suave, slightly saturnine tones of Howard Nemerov or the satiristic ones of Heed Whittemore, while the ""new"" rhythms are, for the most part, either Cummings' famed jagged line run-overs or the tough guy tongue twisters of boyish ""beats"" Frank O'Hara and Phil Whalen. Mr. Clardi, of course, is a poet and his own voice does come through, but with the exceptions of Tragedy, Olivia, Birds, Survival and a few others down deep, does it really matter? ""If you can beg the/ money for it, dial God, and if a/ creed answers, hang up."" That's about the profundity's general extent. And of wit, here's a space age two-liner: ""First a monkey, then a man/ Just the way the world began."" In a letter to his publisher Mr. Clardi said: ""I keep thinking that yes I have caught it and I keep being not sure and yet I keep thinking yes."" He was speaking of In Fact. Mr. Ciardi is an optimist.