Helene Ciaravino. SquareOne, $14.95 paper (192p) ISBN 0-7570-0001-0

If how-to books are supposed to be opinionated, informative and sophisticated, this guide from Ciaravino (How to Pray: A Practical Guide to Prayer) is less a beginning poet's guide than a gentle and repetitive initiation for the completely clueless-but, blessedly, they're out there. The target audience of 20,000 (the book's first printing) seems to be those who come to poetry through self-help programs or sui generis verbal implosions, or who are otherwise completely out of the loop of periodicals, presses and academic programs-indeed of poetry of any sort: "This poet, whose full name is Thomas Stearns Eliot, has influenced history with his work." Almost none of the actual presses, magazines and programs that make up the current scene are described, evaluated or even mentioned here-although the publications that list them are-and the ones that do show up make for a highly skewed selection. (The University of North Dakota Writers Conference is one of three discussed. The Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference is another.) Some of the initiated may find the sample cover letters, submission packet suggestions, "tracking chart[s]" and glosses ("Quarterly-four times per year") useful, but those looking for a Baedeker to the current lay of the land will not mistake this map for the territory. (Dec.)