But words that could direct anfriendnprecisely to an unknown place,nthose few unshakable detailsnthat no confusion can erase.nDespite having produced a considerablenamount of work in open forms,nGioia is often listed among a group ofnpoets known as the New Formalists, whonhave tried, in various ways, to consolidatensome aspects of modernism withnothers drawn from popular culture andntraditional poetry. Yet, appealing asnthese witty turns are, one may prefer thenmore intimate voice that speaks in thenloosely metered lines of “Planting a Sequoia,”none of several poems in the collectionncontrasting evanescence (in thisncase a son who died in infancy) and permanence:nWe plant you in the corner of thengrove, bathed in western light,nA slender shoot against thensunset.nAnd when our family is no more,nall of his unborn brothers dead.nEvery niece and nephewnscattered, the house torn down.nHis mother’s beauty ashes in thenair,nI want you to stand amongnstrangers, all young andnephemeral to you.nSilently keeping the secret of yournbirth.nThe most impressive single poem innthe volume is “Counting the Children,”na realistic narrative of slightly over 150nlines. The persona, a Chinese-Americannaccountant named Choi, has comento the home of an eccentric female intestatento take inventory. In one of thendead woman’s rooms he finds an astonishingncollection:nI walked into a room of woodennshelvesnStretching from floor to ceiling,nwall to wall.nWith smaller shelves arrangednalong the center.nA crowd of faces looked upnsilently.nShoulder to shoulder, standing allnin rows.nHundreds of dolls were liningnevery wall.nNot a collection anyone wouldnwant—nJust ordinary dolls salvaged fromnthe trashnWith dozens of each kind all setntogether.nSome battered, others missingnarms and legs.nShelf after shelf of the same dustynstarenAs if despair could be assuaged bynorder.nHe speculates about the whereabouts ofn”the children who promised them loven… / The small, caressing hands, the lipsnwhich whispered / Secrets in the dark,”nand later, in his own home, a nightmarenwakes him to thoughts of his ownndaughter:nBRIEF MENTIONSnHow delicate this vessel in ourncare,nThis gentle soul we summoned tonthe world,nA life we treasured but could notnprotect.nGioia took considerable risks in releasingnthis book hard on the heels ofnhis critique of the contemporary scene,nbut he has indeed produced poetry thatn”can matter” to the intelligent commonnreader. The Gods of Winter was recentlynnamed a selection of the British PoetrynBook Society, the first time in recentnmemory that a book by an Americannpoet has been so honored.nR.S. Gwynn is a professor of Englishnat Lamar University in Beaumont,nTexas.nTHE CULTURE OF SPENDING: WHY CONGRESS LIVES BEYONDnOUR MEANSnby James L. PaynenSan Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies;n225 pp., $24.95nIn spite of election-year criticism of White House and congressional perks, fewnpoliticians are willing to acknowledge that government at its core is “a deeplynflawed problem solving institution” in need of reform. So argues James Payne inn, The Culture of Spending. He details the habits of Capitol Hill that have institutionalizednthe proclivity to spend. For Democrats and Republicans alike, it isnaxiomatic that government can and should deal with housing, day-care, health insurance,netc.—personal goods and services considered “public goods” that consumen”nearly three-quarters of federal government funds.” This belief is reinforcednin committee hearings, policy evaluations, and distortions in the media thatnexpect government solutions rather than the truth, “that the real remedy for a socialnproblem involves slow, incremental steps by thousands of individuals acting inntheir tiny spheres to improve manners, values and culture.”nOversight committees are “incestuous,” relying on the testimony of lobbyistsnand a significant proportion of congressmen. The hearing process is glutted bynclaimants for federal handouts who outnumber conservative, antispending groupsnby “several hundred to one.” Congressmen marshal fallacious arguments—federalnfeeding programs “save money” and public works projects somehow “generatenrevenue.” “The main message congressmen hear is that government programs arena success” because the opportunity cost to taxpayers—money that would otherwisenbe spent privately—is omitted from the accounting process. No one “seriously considersnthe idea of no program.” Even the Republican-controlled White Housenhas failed to restrain spending. Gramm-Rudman, the last best hope for legalnbudgetary restraint, was delivered a blow in 1991 when President Bush approvedn$245 billion in additional domestic spending over the next five years.nBecause “public officials love government more than the people they [are]nsupposed to serve,” Payne favors term limitations, a ban on state legislators fromnentering Congress, a permanent antispending voice in the legislative process withnan “equal-time rule” in committee hearings, and a requirement that programnevaluations by conducted by avowed opponents of spending. Of course, no seriousnreform will occur until constituents are as angered by taxes and the federalndeficit as they were outraged by the House-banking scandal.n—Emily AdamsnnnJULY 1992/39n