In 30 righteous and direct poems, British poet Oliver (Penniless Politics) juxtaposes developments in European and American cities with the histories and present conditions of several African countries, in a cautious attempt at consciousness-raising. Arguing that "our greatest cruelties often arise from a failure to imagine," Oliver, a gifted satirist who died in APril at 62, carefully works the ambiguities of the stories he relates. There are biographical poems, such as the remarkable "A Salvo for Malawi," which narrates the life of preacher and rebel leader John Chilembwe, and there are poems that are harder to classify, such as "The Childhood Map," which begins as a conventional poem on the theme of exotic fauna and nature films, then quickly shifts to ask "If Britain were beset by famines,/ would it be governable?" and lists AIDS infection rates in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya--before returning to the toy airplane of the conventional poem. Oliver lived in Paris with his wife Alice Notley, and in earlier years had worked as a reporter. The pieces in Salvo have the logic of the experienced journalist's feature story with the conviction of the dissident poet's J'accuse. But the basis and grace of the poems is Oliver's emphasis on his own vulnerability. It makes his call to the citizens of wealthy countries--the call to imagine more accurately their place in the world--all the more grounded and urgent. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.