Not since his famous Crow has Ted Hughes so successfully demonstrated the ease with which he can create provocative, primordial imagery through peculiarly hard-edged, brilliant language. This series of poems is billed as an ""alchemical drama,"" and fulfills its promise by transforming the poetically mundane cycle of birth/death into a compelling experience. A painful entry and initiation into the world continues as a never-ending series of trials and tests, as in ""The Judge"": ""The pondering body of the law teeters across/A web-glistening geometry. . . ."" All these poems gain, however, by the complementary presence of Leonard Baskin's taut bird drawings. Two masters of the poetic macabre in effective consort.