cover image Water Walker

Water Walker

Nancy Willard. Alfred A. Knopf, $9.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-72171-0

Willard's ( In His Country ) ninth collection stints on serious or complex subjects in favor of frequently dazzling verbal pyrotechnics. The poems proceed through careful scrutiny: one pays homage to a newt; another seeks theology in a hardware store's shelves; and the final, fable-like series here wittily reinterprets newspaper headlines (``Nets Halt Suns''). Sensitive to nuances, Willard's deft but disjointed use of metaphor mines the double meanings of words: a psalm to a vineyard celebrates all kinds of ``spirits''; a ride in a stretch limousine expands the speaker's soul. Although some poems suggest an underlying darkness or even chaos, for the most part they mimic a child's enchantment with the world. Indeed, several, lacking ambivalence, seem more appropriate for children than adults. A few, such as ``Magic Story for Falling Asleep,'' slip into cuteness or cliche. (June)