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In this 14th collection of his own verse, the much-honored Howard (The Silent Treatment) returns to the kinds of poems that made him famous: elaborate dramatic monologues, impersonations and dialogues that are intricately alert to literary history and sexual desire. The first and longest poem imagines a three-way exchange of versified letters among Henry James, his California-based niece and L. Frank Baum, the man who created Oz. Another poem comprises a tetchy interview with the mother of Medea, the cruel princess of Greek tragedy and myth. A central sequence consists of letters from a comically (if morbidly) articulate fifth-grade class that asks its teacher to imagine a world without sexual intercourse . Pulitzer Prize-winner Howard is also nationally known for his translations (over 150 from the French), and what James (one of Howard's perennial models) called the "international theme" is again very much in evidence here; so is the abstract style the mature James himself did so much to invent. In these thoughtful new poems, Howard offers, and excels in, sophisticated verbal comedy, making his personae of all ages show and say more than they know. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.