Saturday, June 03, 2023

Ranjit Hoskote, Icelight



As boats shear past through the pearl-grey haze
our eyes widen to grasp a bowl of oranges.

The prism of this moment sacrifices more
than flesh, pips and rind at the hour’s altar.

Each fruit bursts in variants of bright:
shine, glow, gleam and a tinge

of hope. To this bonfire we feed
our strained cages of skin and need

as we launch ourselves into the tide,
creatures crafted from cloud and night

given safe passage and brief voice
by the caprice of this shifting pearl-grey light.

Bombay-based poet, cultural theorist and curator Ranjit Hoskote’s eighth poetry collection is Icelight (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2023). The first of his collections to be published in the United States, I’m intrigued at the subtleties of the lyric dialogues and thesis contained within this particular collection, my introduction to both him and his work. “The rain never lies.” he writes, to open the poem “RUNNER,” “It just shifts / the names of our seasons.” His poems offer meditations on attention, beauty and memory; on seeking and being lost, almost to the point of allowing for the space to become lost, so that one might allow for renewed discovery. “What if I had / no skin / Of what / am I the barometer?” he writes, to close the opening poem, “TACET.” There is a way his poems attend to the simple beauty of the everyday, and a fresh perspective on the simplest of known knowns and known unknowns. “Am I the boy / who climbed this spur / and laid claim / to the scrubland swearing / in its shade?” his narrator asks, to open the poem “SPUR.” His poems offer an element of calm and clarity across poems fully aware of their mortality. Set in six clusters of lyric narratives, these are poems run through a foundation of longing, and how words are formed, offering both as a lineage of lyric discovery: he is learning what the words are saying at the same moment you are. “I’ve found the seed bed, Earth,” he writes, to close the poem “WITNESS,” “I wait for you // to say: It’s time. Let me tell you / why you’re here.”

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