Merwin's new collection is somewhat startling. The poems here at first seem to be merely archipelagos of haiku, many of them nature jottings reminiscent of Gilbert White's journals: ""Early I saw/ where the sun comes from/ here."" The second half, however, is devoted to oddly unresonant love poetry: ""long ago it was raining and we stepped/ over the burned mountain stones/ and kissed in a cloud."" And since Merwin is an extremely sophisticated writer, it is difficult to read such three-line trickles simply as squibs. (Robert Creeley's Pieces was misunderstood along such lines some years ago.) Eventually, then, it seems that Merwin is using this poetry as an exercise (self-corrective?) in directedness. Whether the subject is Hawaii, the Rockies, or a train journey, experience is severely boiled down, at its best into small sharp hooks (""Waking/ hanging upward into the rushing summer/ calling"") or into hypostasized perception: ""Everything is/ the answer/ too fast."" And the more familiar Merwin--spooky, echoing--is only occasionally evident: ""I hear your bare step on the bare floor/ when I hold your dark/ feet in my hands/ . . . / the earth is bleeding into the sea far out/ we look away/ one side of the heart is dark."" So, finally: a puzzling book, demanding of its reader much (probably too much) initial literary sympathy.