According to the publisher's blurb, Carter died a few months ago at the age of 53. This is his first verse collection. Last January he published his first novel, Full Fathom Five, awarded a Houghton Mifflin literary fellowship. It would be nice to say that having waited this long for publication and having died relatively early, Carter's talents will be missed. Alas, the Muse is even crueller than critics. While Carter's novel displayed a gift for impressionistic, if gabby, prose, it was not a redoubtable performance. And the quaint spirit of nostalgia inhabiting that work is dissipated all over the place in these poems. The irony employed, though energetic, even youthful, is really quite dated, sounding often like those iconoclastic nosegays representative of the Twenties and Thirties, when every minor craftsman thought he was Eliot or Pound. Carter's most ambitious persona is a ""Mr. De Paolis,"" a supposedly tough-minded Prufrock, dedicated to a quasi-satirical appreciation of art, and portentous off-couplets: ""for living man must speak to love/and loving, he must speak to live."" Carter pays amiably irreverent tributes to Hemingway and Crane, Italy and Paris, switching his tone from hi-jinks to pathos, and occasionally coming out even. His most characteristic locale is the mid-West, and his best poem, ""Historic America,"" manages to sum up, in long rambling free verse, a boyhood memory, the hapless marriage of a wispy girl to an undertaker, and the shifting mores of middle class life- all done with wit, black humor and ingratiating sentiment. A few more similar poems and we would have had something.