Victor Hernandez Cruz is a twenty year old poet who moved from Puerto Rico to New York when he was five, has knocked about Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx, and now works with the Gut Theatre project in Manhattan. As the resume suggests, Cruz is part of that ""culture of poverty."" Oscar Lewis recently examined in La Vida, a culture harder, crueler, and yet more buoyant than the popular expression of it in West Side Story. Snaps is a good title for Cruz's work, since his poems have both a photographic compactness or literalness (many are street scenes of one form or another) and also a finger-snapping tartness and anger. His idiom is very much indebted to the Beats, and through them to LeRoi Jones, though he is sharper and more metallic in his phrasing and cadences than the former, and considerably, less militant (or hysterical) than the latter. There is a certain strain of folk-colloquial (Harlem jive mixed with sing-song Latin repetitiveness) giving Cruz a special touch of lyricism coupled with an underlying menacing quality, particularly effective in the cityscapes or portraits of friends. ""Boss & cool & hip,"" high on grass, digging his chicks or should brothers taunting ""the man,"" sorrowing, stealing, ""walking on the lips of the Bronx"" --the themes are familiar to all readers of underground literature in the Sixties, and Cruz, despite his youth or the authenticity of his experiences, does not make them any fresher. Still, he has talent and could go far.