The most prolific writer to win the National Book Award strikes out once again, this time with a volume of poetry. Like her prose, the poems are written in Oates' usual monotone of numbed anger; they blur together in what finally and ironically becomes a celebration of death--death of the body, death of the spirit, or the death of a relative--nothing else is as real to her. Perversely, she seems to long to join that driven duo--Plath and Sexton--without being able to match their inspired fire. She is not transformed, but merely stuck in a claustrophobic subjectivity, the main content of which is a ceaseless searching for oblivion: a search which eventually becomes wearisome to the reader, for why go on writing if such mountainous outpourings provide no surcease for the soul? Worst of all, there is very little poetry in these fatigued compilations of sentiment ("We clasped hands, we embraced, we parted"), rhetorical questions and the general vacuity ("buoy," "space," "oblivion" appear everywhere), evoked principally by parallelism and repetition ("lost the paragraphing of the lives/lost the words that--/ the words that--"; or "It is not pain, not even the surprise of pain"). Even the occasional successful poem seems familiar and tired. A poet who believes it is "always the same day" will have, after the first day, nothing left to say.