Alternative title: Some Grudging Thoughts About Four Competitors. A contemporary companion volume to his earlier Three on the Tower, which dealt with Eliot, Pound, and Williams, Simpson's quartet of essays trades mostly in biography developed by others (and it's chock-a-block with quotations only identified in the back of the book--hardly reassuring as to the book's intellectual above-boardness). In Thomas', Ginsberg's, Plath's, and Lowell's cases, the ""revolution in taste"" they have wrought in modern poetry has been, according to Simpson, along the lines of poetry-as-passion. No wonder, the argument progresses, just look at their screwed-up lives. Simpson uses the exorbitance and damage in the lives as a kind of stick to beat the poetry. Even judgments that approach firmness and fairness sag tellingly with a kind of disdainful spleen; for every good point made about the poetry, there's a balancing thrust at fame, critical acclaim, and acceptance which just doesn't wash when you consider that Simpson, a Pulitzer-winner, is not exactly crying in the wilderness himself. Not very enlightening, and more than passingly unpleasant.