Imagine making poems the way an architect designs buildings or an engineer builds bridges. Such was the ambition of João Cabral de Melo Neto. Though a great admirer of the thing-rich poetries of Francis Ponge and of Marianne Moore, what interested him even more, as he remarked in his acceptance speech for the 1992 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, was "the exploration of the materiality of words," the "rigorous construction of (. . .) lucid objects of language." His poetry, hard as stone and light as air, is like no other.