This, one of the five winners of the National Poetry series, was selected by the eminent poet Donald Hall largely because of its sensuous-almost Keatsian-language. Edmunds is a gifted phrasemaker, intensely aware of sounds and smells. He notes “the grating of shovel and pick” outside a church while inside he smells “bees and blood.” Edmunds covers a wide cultural terrain in this book: poems are set in places like Taos, Treblinka, Rome, Cairo, and New York City. He writes passionately of love and religion, the two great themes that unify this collection, as seen in such poems as “Bella Roma” (on the church of Santa Maria del Populo) and “Thirteen Years,” a powerfully erotic poem on “the salt sea taste” of love. Edmunds’s best lines speak in an idiom that is wholly his own. In “The Fire,” for instance, he describes the process of writing this way: “The page went deaf/One letter at a time.” For all poetry collections.