This volume makes available a comprehensive selection from Ted Hughes' entire output. Readers comparing it to his first Selected Poems (published in 1970) are likely to find, however, that the new selection reflects a substantial talent gone badly awry. The best work here remains that drawn from Hughes' first three books. His early explorations of ""nature red in tooth and claw"" draw their potency from a clear, powerfully understated awareness of the struggle for survival: ""Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men/ Thistles spike the summer air/ Or crackle open under a blue-black pressure./ Every one a revengeful burst/ Of resurrection, a grasped fistful/ Of splintered weapons . . . ."" In the poems from later books, sadly, Hughes' voice becomes strident, histrionic, engrossed with violence and horror for their own sake. Though Hughes is apparently aiming for an immediacy and impact sufficient to shock the reader from habitual ways of perception, the result is strained and predictable: ""Blackening electrical connections/ To where death bleaches its crystals/ You swell and you writhe/ You open your Buddha gape/ You screech at the root of the house."" In a few later lyrics Hughes quells this voice and again produces muted but powerful meditations on the natural world. But most of this sizable volume only makes one regret the road not taken.