April Masters

Drawing from 32 years and seven-plus books of poems, Crossing the Equator: New and Selected Poems 1972—2004 offers broad swaths of Nicholas Christopher's peripatetic career. Novels like Veronica and A Trip to the Stars are left out in favor of work from the verse novella Desperate Characters and nine new poems, two of which are serial works, like "Ultima Thule": "Drawing into the dusk/ the cartographer discovered his lines/ took on a life of their own." (Harcourt, $24 240p ISBN 0-15-101095-1)

Retired life insurance executive Ted Kooser is better known as the author of Sure Signs and nine other books of poems, as well as of the recent memoir Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemia Alps than for policies sold. Divided into four sections, these 59 poems take us from time "Walking on Tiptoe" and "At the Cancer Clinic" to "A Jar of Buttons," "A Box of Pastels" and "A Glimpse of the Eternal": "Just now,/ a sparrow lighted/ on a pine bough/ right outside/ my bedroom window/ and a puff/ of yellow pollen/ flew away." (Copper Canyon, $15 paper 96p ISBN 1-55659-201-9)

"I would rather write poems than prose, any day, any place" writes Mary Oliver, "Yet each has its own force." Her Long Life: Essays and Other Writings intersperses a few verses among prose pieces as various as "Dog Talk," "Emerson: An Introduction" and "Where I Live." As "Sand Dabs, Nine" puts it, "The energy of attempt is greater than the surety of stasis." (Da Capo, $22 120p ISBN 0-306-80995-8)

Michael Ryan's three collections—the Yale Younger—winning Threats Instead of Trees (1974), the National Poetry Series selection In Winter (1981) and the Lenore Marshall—winning God Hunger (1989)—are represented by 11, 12 and 34 pieces, respectively, in his New and Selected Poems, along with 31 new verses. In all, Ryan's straight-talking diction moves quickly from interjection to conversational analysis to terse, noirish declaration: "Oh well,/ whatever heart-bursting terror// I'm supposed to learn in dreams/ could be useful someday/ when a beloved voice screams/ and life changes utterly// No one's immune./ It's happening to someone right now./ The police, the ambulance,/ these strangers in the house." (Houghton Mifflin, $22 160p ISBN 0-618-40854-1)

Locus Classicus

Perhaps more immediate than Ezra Pound's "Homage..." are The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius himself, in Latin and translated by veteran poet and translator Vincent Katz (Understanding Objects), who also provides an introduction. The Roman poet, who lived from 50 to 16 B.C.E, is here in all his suggestive glory ("The girl alone erects my genius"), articulating an empiric era that feels closer than ever. (Princeton Univ., $39.50 488p ISBN 0-691-11581-8; $18.95 paper -11582-6; July)

All 366 of the Canzoniere are available in The Poetry of Petrarch, an English-only edition by poet and translator David Young (At the White Window), who also introduces the book. Petrarch (1304—1374) spent 47 years crafting, mostly in sonnets, what may be the ultimate evidence that a love (here, for "Laura") that is thwarted in flesh can come to fruition in word: "Love spurs me on and reins me in at once,/ comforts and terrifies, burns and freezes me,/ is kind, then scorns me, summons and dismisses, thrills me with hope, then fills me up with sorrow." (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 288p ISBN 0-374-23532-5; April)

With 68 7½"×11" b&w engravings that include helicopters, parking lots, shwarma stands, strip malls, chain-link fences, concrete stairs and skyscrapers, Dante's Inferno is brought into the present by illustrator Sandow Brik, and into English by Brik and Marcus Sanders, a contributing editor to Surfline.com. Their sophisticated Valley-speak ("the ghosts approached us, all totally deadpan, with zero emotion") may not be for everyone, but it is in synch with Dante's vernacular masterpiece. (Chronicle, $22.95 paper 256p ISBN 0-8118-4213-4; Apr. 26)

With acclaimed versions of The Duino Elegies and Uncollected Poems already in print, Edward Snow's historic rendering of the Rilke oeuvre gets one step closer to completion with Sonnets to Orpheus. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875—1926) composed the first set of 26 sonnets just before completing the monumental elegies, and the second 29 just after. Rendered here without rhyme and with German facing text, Snow makes clear why the sonnets are "Sayable only by the singer./ Audible only by the god." (North Point, $20 128p ISBN 0-86547-611-X; Apr.)

Fresh from the publication of My Mojave (Alice James), Donald Revell checks in with The Self-Dismembered Man: The Selected Later Poems of Guillaume Apollinaire, his "favorite pieces" from Apollinaire's (1880—1918) posthumous Calligrammes in French and with his English translations. As "Cloud Phantom" says of an acrobat, "His skinny body became such delicate music none of us could bear it." (Wesleyan Univ., $30 150p ISBN 0-8195-6690-X; $15.95 paper -6691-8; Apr.)