When it comes to the world of modern American poetry, W.B. Yeats got it right.

The center has not held.Things have flown apart.

The academic poets go one direction - honing their phrases and adding levels of meaning to their lines. The poetry slammers and street bards go another - turning poetry into social and political ranting, like the lost souls on soap boxes in Hyde Park.

Then there's Alex Caldiero - a lone wolf who howls and hunts by night.

Caldiero is - by turns - a throwback to the Beat poets of Greenwich Village and also a visionary ushering in a new era of poetry as theater.

Give him a beret and set of bongos and he's Ferlinghetti.

Give him a space helmet and he's a walking sci-fi movie.

Give him a publishing contract and he produces "Various Atmospheres," a 60-page collection of verse and drawings that is unlike anything else on the market.

The drawback, of course, is all the poetry in the book suffers by comparison . . . comparison to Caldiero performing the poetry.

I've seen him stand dead still on a stage, wait, then fling his arms wide and scream "Door!" at the top of his lungs - rattling windows throughout the neighborhood.

A one-word poem.

And though "Door!" doesn't appear in the book, it highlights the problem. Caldiero doesn't write for the eye. He writes for the voice and the ear.

The poem "our," for example:

our

breath

breaks

into

little

breaths

It doesn't take much imagination to hear Calidero breathing hard between those words.

Still, the poet has chosen some of his most linear and thoughtful verse for the book. The poems are Caldiero at his most conventional. Like the poetry of Richard Brautigan, his best lines are short, choppy and leap onto the page like splashes of paint. He speaks straight from the brain stem.

But in the end "Various Atmospheres" falls on deaf ears. It demands to be spoken - by the poet.

In the World According to Caldiero, you can never say "In the beginning was the word." You have to say, "In the beginning was the breath."

And breath is short in "Various Atmospheres."