cover image Time Traveler

Time Traveler

Joyce Carol Oates. Plume Books, $9.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-525-48505-6

In the moving title sequence of this aggressively diverse collection, Oates's ( Invisible Woman ) presents Americans traveling in Eastern Europe, where ``we are `not ourselves.' / We are mimes, smilers, / objects of curiosity, / objects of much fawning solicitude / and much hatred.'' As a result, many poems here are more politically oriented than those in her six previous poetry books. There are also elegies for friends, poems about paintings. The lyrical character sketches of a section called ``Young Love, America'' are a delight, but the dramatic monologues of ``I Saw a Woman Walking'' might have been better served as fiction; exclamation points stud those overwritten pieces. ``Don't bare your soul to anyone, no matter who invites it!'' she exhorts a friend, then: ``If you do it, don't talk about it! / Not even to yourself! / And don't write about it! / Especially not that!'' Even in poems far less coy, Oates contents herself with merely nodding toward the intimate: ``What's deepest / in you you can't name / except to know it's there.'' Major ad/promo. (Sept.)