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In just four books since the 1960s, the calm, California-based writer-whose works also describe his travels in Vietnam, Laos, India and even the Solomon Islands-has gathered devotees to his pellucid free verse, with its unpretentious, unbuttoned feel and its Buddhist overtones. A poem about walking in England tells us "how to walk the freshness/ back into your life"; "Ode to the Smell of Firewood" begins, "Late, when the stars/ open in the cold/ I opened the door./ The sea/ was galloping/ in the night." Stroud's confident understatements, with their debts to non-European traditions (especially to Chinese and Japanese classics) could well find many more fans. Stroud (Country of Light) arranges his poems not chronologically but by form or theme: the best poems are those that take him outside himself, and he has rightly placed them at the start and near the end. First comes a set of vivid six-line lyrics (some new, some from the 1990s); much later come prose poems about the Italian artist Giotto. "If he wants to paint crowns, he must learn how to hammer gold," Giotto says of an apprentice. "If he wants to paint Paradise, he must first find a pig." (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.