Charles Simic, . . Harcourt, $22 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101214-5

Over the past three decades, Simic's compact, often spooky poems of displacement, violence and anxiety have won him national acclaim (and a Pulitzer); for some readers, Simic's frightened children, intrepid shopkeepers and bleak fairy-tale atmospheres mark his work as late-blooming surrealism, while others link his sensibility to the violence he escaped as a child in 1940s Serbia. Simic offers many sinister delights, if few big shockers, in this 14th volume of new work: of its four sections, the first two stick largely to the grittily familiar Simic settings: "All-night cafeterias,/ Dark barrooms/ And poolhalls," not to mention "an empty platform/ With no town in sight." Short, bleary lines alternate streamlined realism with dreamlike gloom: "A tongue by itself in a birdcage" begs for water, while a walker explores "A few homes lately foreclosed." The last (and best) parts of the book expand Simic's repertoire of images, moving from film noir scenes into bizarre parables: "that world out there," the poet shows, "Is a riddle even you can't solve." Helpless, baffled, resigned and nevertheless charming, Simic (Hotel Insomnia ; etc.) makes up for his limited range by offering verse with almost no false notes; standout poems attack war or mull the absence of God ("the least he could do is put up a sign"), and the whole collection establishes Simic once again as a reliable master of his particular, melancholy, wry mode. (Apr.)