Set in an age of ecological catastrophe, Icelight eloquently accepts transience yet asserts the robustness of hope
Icelight, Ranjit Hoskote's eighth collection of poems, enacts the experience of standing at the edge—of a life, a landscape, a world assuming new contours or going up in flames. Yet, the protagonists of these poems also stand at the edge of epiphany. In the title poem, we meet the Neolithic cave-dweller who, dazzled by a shapeshifting nature, crafts the first icon. The 'I' of these poems is not a sovereign 'I'. A questing, questioning voice, it locates itself in the web of life, in relation to the cosmos. In 'Tacet', the speaker asks: "What if I had/ no skin/ Of what/ am I the barometer?" Long committed to the Japanese mono no aware aesthetic, Hoskote embraces talismans, premonitions, fossils: active residues from the previous lives of people and places. Icelight is a book about transitions and departures, eloquent in its acceptance of transience in the face of mortality.
Rumours of wind, banners of cloud.
The low earth shakes but the storm
has not arrived. You pack
for the journey, look up, look through
the doors at trees shedding their leaves
too soon, a track on which silk shoes
would be wasted, a moon
still dangling above a boat.
Wearing your salt mask, you face
the mulberry shadows.
The valley into which
I. • 1.Tacet • 2.Aubade • 3. Retreat • 4.Witness • 5.Rock • 6.Noor • 7.Spur • 8. Trigger • 9. Groove • 10. Fresco • 11. Breath • 12. Bed • II. • 13. Eclipse • 14. Night Ferry • 15. Runner • 16. Foreigner • 17. Sentence • 18. Wind • 19. Paishachi • 20. Apostle • 21. Redacted • 22. Postscript • 23. Crow Hymn • 24. What Did I Miss? • III. • 25. All Gods Travel • 26. Call If You're Lost • 27. Plague • 28. Juggler • 29. The Mist Shop • 30. Planet • 31. Storefront Self-portrait • 32. Swimmer • 33. Torso • 34. Dust • 35. Terminus • 36. Bait • IV. • 37. Icelight • 38. Bookmark • 39. Clock • 40. Glover • 41. Still Life with Oranges • 42. Descant • 43. Ocean Park • 44. Slope • 45. Tune • 46. Exit • 47. The Science of Detection • 48. Miramar V. • 49. Column • 50. Ritual • 51. Temple • 52. Matinée • 53. Gravity • 54. Talisman • 55. In this Country of Silence • 56. Monsoon Song • 57. Title • 58. Lesson • 59. Anthem • 60. Krishna's End • VI. • 61. Catapult • 62. Departures • 63. Skeleton • 64. Under the Southern Cross • 65. Neighbours • 66. Fleece • 67. Mission • 68. Afternoon Poem • 69. The Harappan Merchant's Complaint • 70. Switch • 71. Roar • 72. Return • Notes • Acknowledgements
"Because Ranjit Hoskote lives a double life as art critic and poet, we might expect him to be drawn to art history and ekphrasis. But in fact, almost all the poems in Icelight are concerned with shifts in perspective that function not merely as aesthetic tropes, but as a philosophical insistence on the simultaneity of different viewpoints, of cultural differences, and of those multiplicities that compose any self—what Hoskote calls 'the prism of this moment.' His poems derive their thrilling energy from the way Hoskote toggles between precise description and conceptual reflection, modulations that charge these poems with muscular tension."~Forrest Gander, author of Be With
"At the heart of this utterly beautiful, resonant, and moving collection is a profound sense of South Asia's role in world history, and the title poem's image of an Ice Age artist. The beginning of human attention to animal, nature and the earth, but also the beginning of what human does to earth, 'maimed and gloried' through art."~Ruth Padel, author of Beethoven Variations
"For poems probing deep ontological and existential concerns, these are remarkably free of lecture or cant. Sophisticated readers will grab especially, but this work is accessible to all."~Library Journal
"[Icelight] is a remarkable collection of poetry that offers readers a thought-provoking exploration of universal themes and concerns such as the interconnectedness of people through distances of time and memory. Ultimately, Hoskote's skillful use of language, structure, and imagery creates a deeply moving reading experience."~Ella A. Anthony, Harvard Crimson
"Icelight is a collection that will always keep the reader on their toes. It never presumes to lecture, and yet it delivers discrete little packets of wisdom in an orderly, elegant manner."~Aditya Mani Jha, Open Magazine
"Visibility must be earned when you read Hoskote. His craft is laced with alchemical properties. Only the reader's intimacy can melt the words that reveal the poem."~Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee, Scroll.in