John McNally. Subpress (SPD, dist.), $11 paper (88p) ISBN 1-930068-06-9

"My hippy branch of talk to cut through the stutter/ is clutter to music but beauty to the human me./ Why whisper when the speak of heart too easy/ yields reason, longevity, happiness no tears." This deliciously torqued first full-length collection takes the reader back to the San Francisco Bay Area of the late 1980s, when its author first appeared on the smallish but vibrant poetry scene there as the affable and knowledgeable manager of Small Press Traffic's bookstore in the Mission District. Indeed, its author was then generally acknowledged to have the best ear among a band of younger poets only half-facetiously dubbed "The Small Press Traffic School" by Bay Area writer Kevin Killian. The poems here, written between 1987 and 1992, predate, by a decade, the current post-everything discourse that synthesizes the strategies, tropes, styles and general concerns of any number of tendencies beginning with, say, early 20th-century Modernism, and culminating with New York school poetry, language writing, slams and anything else in between. By 1988, McNally was not only there, but, as in "Post-Avant," aware: "erasure taught causes me mean syntax jumble tunes/ though of wending my way I was before contact// the lapse in language to pastiche ours further/ the bear of another mode fixing the sky." There's at least 10 years worth of his work yet to be published, and readers hopefully will have less of a wait to see how much further ahead McNally has gotten; but for now, followers of earlier, more well-known SF-scenes-Beats, Spicer, Duncan, Language-will find various, welcome forms of continuity here while others will find McNally a terrific in to a usually tightly knit community. (Jan.)