The premise is one that we like: each poem takes a subject from the complex to the inane and explains it in 100 words or less.
Sometimes this works very well: in the poem ...Explain how modern ideas of exponential expansion impact 19th century romantic ideals
Further up the road, Blake's Jerusalem.
a beauteous Eden, is dissected
by the A327. A detached
incision; a vivisection through all
Here the exam question title is pulled apart in a humorous style; the throwaway allusions to Blake and Capability (Brown) enhance the mannered student approach in sharp contrast to the simplicity of Further up the road. For a small poem there are an awful lot of cutting words though and I am not sure the text is strong enough to stand up to this level of Sebastianism.
In the poem The balloon Wood talks about the difficulty of pinning down his inspiration:
No one wants to be the fool at the fountain
letting the nectar pass his hands...
all I could put down was this...
Wood's poems are full of playful ideas and perhaps the 100 words concept does not contain them within a strong enough context in the end. You get the feeling - a little more rigour, a little more editing (there are some typos) and perhaps focus on the most successful poems to make a shorter collection would have enhanced the end result.
But James Wood's best moments at the more experimental end of his work are wry and thoughtful and the collection as a whole an entertaining read.
*Buy thesaurus. Internet keeps crashing.
You can find more about the collection and purchase it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Words-Less-James-Wood/dp/1848973365.