Maxine Kumin, . . Norton, $21 (118pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04351-8

Distinguished poet Kumin (Connecting the Dots, etc.), who has found inspiration in her rural life on a New Hampshire horse farm, garnered critical praise and respectable sales last year with her prose memoir, Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery, an account of grievous injuries she sustained after a fall from a horse. This new collection, her first after a well-received Selected Poems: 1960–1990 (1997), contains poems that pertain to this experience, with observant details about physical therapy classes that would have daunted a writer of less steely strength. Always buoyantly optimistic in previous books, the poet is put to the test here by potentially gloomy subject matter, as in the poem "Grand Canyon": "Outings for wheelchair postulants/ are regular affairs here on the brink/ of this improbably upheaved landscape/... The fact is, no conjecture can resolve/ why I survived this broken neck/ known in the trade as the hangman's fracture,/ this punctured lung, eleven broken ribs,/ a bruised liver, and more...." Kumin is able to find humor in her situation, and carefully keeps an ear to her fellow patients' speech patterns. In "Grady, Who Lost a Leg in Korea, Addresses Me in the Rehab Gym," she records plausible speech: "Now those guys over there/ in chairs? They got the sugar/ Diabetes. Works like a cannibal,/ one leg, then the other." There are also poems in homage to Muriel Rukeyser and to birds. The book is uneven and overlong, but Kumin's avid readership will find irresistible this evidence of her overcoming severe physical injury. (Nov.)