William Logan -- poet, critic and professor of English at the University of Florida -- has been called "the best practical critic around" (Poetry magazine) and "the most hated man in American poetry" (Hudson Review). Certainly this volume of essays, Desperate Measures (University Press of Florida, $34.95) displays scathing conceits reminiscent of Randall Jarrell and a fierce attentiveness characteristic of its dedicatee, Christopher Ricks. But Logan is his own man, and these pages can be read for their insight, however iconoclastic, as well as for their crisp prose. Frost, Hughes, Ashbery, Muldoon, Merwin, Hecht, Heaney, Wilbur and dozens more recent poets are looked at and judged. With daring le{grv}se-majeste{acute} Logan even goes so far as to critique Elizabeth Bishop, or at least her admirers, those who so often view her as "a Florida coastline stocked with rare birds, tediously pretty, littered with beautiful shells." By contrast, in analyzing the difficulties of Geoffrey Hill's magnificent verse, Logan wonders whether modern audiences are worthy of such a poet: "Should poets continue to stumble down the levels of prose until they are speaking the language of the worm (or, to be fair, a language not even worthy of worms), or should they bear a language in the burden of its saying, a language where the force of words is the trust that language demands?"

-- Michael Dirda