Reginald Gibbons, critic and translator, has gathered 29 essays by 20th-century poets into a collection unusual for its breadth--from William Carlos Williams on projectivist verse, to Osip Mandelstam on ""The Word and Culture,"" to Robert Duncan on ""Poetry and Science,"" to Delmore Schwartz on ""The Vocation of the Poet in the Modern World""--plus poems about writing from Marianne Moore and Czeslaw Milosz. Eliot and Pound are noticeably absent (except as referral points); Gibbons has selected less available works, including some previously untranslated--George Seferis and Luis Cernuda appear along with pieces by Auden, Jarrell, Wallace Stevens, and Hart Crane. And he provides a selective reading list and short biographies as well. The essays are impressionistic rather than academic, and do not fall into standard critical categories--though the volume has, rather artificially, been divided into two parts: Theory and Practice. But nothing can stop Dylan Thomas or Gary Snyder from talking about nearly everything else when the subject is poetry, so theory of metaphor and fine points of prosody are woven into childhood memories and discussions of Zen. (Wallace Stevens tells us that ""Fuseli used to eat raw beef at night before going to bed in order that his dreams might attain a beefy violence."") Fortunately, even the diary extracts and interviews are free from the parochial gossip that plagues so much discussion of poets and poetry. On the whole, Gibbons has assembled a temperate and reflective collection; and in rare instances--Lorca's essay about the Duende, the devil-muse of poets, or Marianne Moore's brilliant defense of idiosyncrasy--the essayist and the poet are one, and criticism is creation.