FAILURE: POEMS, by Philip Schultz, Harcourt, 106 pages, $23

The author of five collections of poetry, Philip Schultz has written a new one — "Failure" — with all the ingredients for which he is famous: directness and wry observations.

Schultz writes about family, beaches, dogs, marriage, New York City — and failure. Each poem is a marvel.

The title work is about his borrowing money for his father's funeral from someone who called his dad "a nobody." Indignant, Schultz says, "No, he was a failure. You can't remember a nobody's name ... failures are unforgettable."

Schultz's uncle recounts his father's failures: "a parking lot that raised geese, a motel that raffled honeymoons, a bowling alley with roving mariachis." Plus, he was comical: "His watches pinched, he tripped on his pant cuffs and he snored loudly in movies."

The poet's conclusion: "Our family avoided us, fearing boils. I left town, but failed to get away."

In "What I Like and Don't Like," Schultz writes that he likes saying hello and goodbye, likes to hug but not to shake hands, likes talking to cab drivers but not receptionists. He likes hearing his opinions "tumble out of my mouth like toddlers tied together while crossing the street, trusting they won't be squashed by fate."

In "It's Sunday Morning in Early November," Schultz considers all the things he should be doing: raking leaves, fixing a broken storm window, taking Eli fishing, even though he (the poet) doesn't know how to fish.

He also thinks he should tell his wife about how much his "soul is aging, how it feels like a basement I keep filling with everything," or how he could "sit by the window watching the leaves."

In "Grief," the poet speaks of people who have died but whose presence continues to be felt: "My friend Yehuda still drops by without calling. Right now, he's marching backwards around my study, making the sound of every instrument in the Israeli Philharmonic, hoping to cheer me up. I used to think the dead preferred their own company. They don't. They prefer ours."

In "The Truth," Schultz writes, "It cannot be replaced with a house or car, a husband or wife, but can be ignored, denied, and betrayed, until the last day, when you pass yourself on the street and recognize the agreeable life you were afraid to lead, and turn away."

These poems are easily understood, fun to read aloud — and they inspire good conversation.