Great America: Poems

James McManus, Author Harper Perennial $22 (103p) ISBN 978-0-06-055347-0

Although the titles of some of the selections in this collection (``Gespensterwellen'' or ``Counting Her Syllables Before They're Hatched'') suggest nonsense, it is enigma that results instead. McManus's poems and one short prose piece juxtapose life from the tabloids against a poetic vision in which sense is apt to jitter into fragments as the attention focuses. ``Splashwater Falls the Shock / Wave the Shooting Gallery / rhythmic percussion is African melody / more European this dismal cock / galvanizing ritual just because Peewee was framed.'' Intimate confession lies alongside crass or ridiculous fantasies in a matrix of many barriers and abandoned hints. The middle-aged narrator of ``Smash and Scatteration,'' having displayed his sexy and forthright ``fiancee Linda Krajacik'' (`` `Yo, tell me about it, Mr. Premature / Ejaculation,' she snaps, whapping a palm with a fist''), goes on in ``Wisconsin,'' another piece, to ogle the body of nubile teenager Katie Krajacik, who plays ``center field on my daughter Mairead's fast-pitch softball team.'' Should we sort it out, leave it alone or call the police? McManus's dada verve gains more than a little from its Chicago context. ``Slash Art,'' which he terms a ``manifesto,'' offers: ``In the meantime / people who read books, employ good old fugal procedure, and understand rules / can change quickly will make much more / interesting art, and much much more money.'' (July)