In "Dark Horses" prize-winning poet X.J. Kennedy gathers 42 new poems. From the lighthearted ballad "Dancing with the Poets at Piggy's" to the darkly meditative lyric "The Waterbury Cross", the poems show Kennedy's wide range. There are intimate portraits of a woman veterinarian and a young man dying of AIDS, a song about the Sri Lankan festival of Buddha's tooth, and a stark account of a confrontation with a homeless panhandler. "Emily Dickinson Leaves a Message to the World" on the newly installed answering machine in her Amherst homestead. Finding a "Woodpile Skull" - the severed head of a black ant makes the poet laugh at his own expense as he plays "ham Hamlet to a formic Yorick". X.J. Kennedy's first collection, "Nude Descending a Staircase" (1961) won the Lamont Award of the Academy of American Poets. His most recent collection, "Cross Ties: Selected Poems" (1985) received the "Los Angeles Times" Book Award for poetry.