Laura Jensen is a young poet whose first book offers the freshest use of surrealism since W. S. Merwin and Charles Simic. All the anger in her poetry is projected onto the landscape, so we have the rare difficulty and pleasure of reading poetry that represents tumultuous internal states without cataloguing the tedious days of the author. Behind every sharp vision lurks a reproach:

Wasted wasted, the birds


Wasted on you.

She lives in a dangerous world where "Salt falls from the sky into my clothes." In the disturbed backwaters of the unconscious, the most benign view can take on threatening postures:

The alce's thick bud

does not open, has no kind of


and no thorn. It grows for-

mally, dark tie.

without adrenalin or terror.

These lines reveal what they would hide, sing what they would keep silent. Jensen writes as if there were nothing that could not be altered by her seeing it, and her language often has the surprising exactness of Wallace Stevens. The mise-en-scenes she favors are the country and the sea. Of the boats in the title poem:

In their egomania they are glad

for the burden of the storm

the men are shirking

when they go for their coffee

and yawn.

They are bad boats and they

hate their anchors.

Like some complex tragedy, ther visions are both terrifying and funny; they create a poetry of elegance and fear. The risks Jensen takes - odd juxtapositions and tortuous transitions - cause their share of failures, but experience may later manage what her invention now unleashes. Bad Boats is a remarkable opening effort. (Ecco, $6.95)