The depressed, droning naturalism that will sometimes give her prose fiction a stubborn power does almost nothing for Oates' poetry. The concerns are mostly the same: fate, violence, people as motes in the world's eye. The titles: "Hauled from River, Sunday 8 A.M." and "Wealthy Lady." But the effects are flat, often snide: "Last night in a basement recreation room/ there were people who refused to be recreated!/ Husbands and wives who had surely met one another before/ sat in stern silence side by side/ staring at the faces opposite/ staring at the simulated knotty-pine wall." Nor is there any true trace of lyric felicity: "Now a soprano's voice rises suddenly/ from a Schoenberg quartet/ beside the tinfoil chrysanthemums/ bodiless in beauty/ beyond the spicy shame of blood." Mostly it's toneless, jerry-built, and obvious poetry without much flavor one way or another.