In a time when highly competent American poets can be counted in the hundreds, but none seems as tall as Frost, Eliot, or Stevens, Poems of Two World suggests that the lack may be in process of remedy. Frederick Morgan, best known as editor of The Hudson Review, is a poet of extraordinary human openness and perception, with technical skills ranging from free forms of effective rhyming. He explores with deceptive ease the great contraries of life and death, body and spirit, nature and city, youth and age, the human and the transhuman.

An accurate realism and touch of the surreal infuses his poetry, as he speaks from the observation post of his own consciousness - "the quiet place, the summerhouse where sings the unkempt soul." His imagination and memories encompass the ugly as well as the lovely - "all this beauty, all this grace renewed - /subject to fat-faced husband, yelping brats." He travels with poetic grace from one realm of experience to another, scattering light on scenes that in lesser hands would be merely pedestrian. At times his skill does slip into mere facility or philosophical enumeration:

Today the chill Museum shelters

what we know as "past"

residues of transient selves

rubbings of identity

But on the whole, he leads us into roomier universes than we remember, and more numinous. With this book he becomes a major poet. (University of Illinois Press, $7.95; paperback, $3.95)

Chad Walsh .