“Aching and revelatory, Ice speaks to that part of us that wants to preserve our tenderness for this world and those in it.”—BLAS FALCONER
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In a careful examination of personal and collective histories, David Keplinger’s Ice indexes the findings from memory’s slow melt—stories and faces we’ve forgotten, bones hidden in frost.

“I am asking how much more / I have to learn from this,” Keplinger writes. “You are asking that same question.” In these poems, he turns to our predecessors for guidance in picking apart the forces that govern modernity—masculinity, power, knowledge, conquest. Cryptic visitants arrive in the form of Gilgamesh, “searching for a way to stay in pain forever”; a grandmother mending socks, “her face in the dark unchanging”; Emily Dickinson, lingering at her window; a lion cub, asleep in ice for millennia.

With each comes a critique of the Anthropocene, our drive to possess the unpossessable. With each comes also the discovery of what—and who—we’ve harmed in the discovering. Ice shelves collapse. Climate change melts layers of permafrost to reveal a severed wolf’s head. A pair of grease-smudged reading glasses calls up a mother’s phantom. “I am sorry / for the parts you gave me / that I’ve misshapen,” Keplinger writes.

So is there “a point to all this singing”? Our ancestors cannot answer. The wolf’s head can’t, either. But sometimes, “out of the snow of confusion,” something answers, “saying gorgeous things like yes.” And the flowers “open up / their small green trumpets anyway.”

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David Keplinger

David Keplinger is the author of Ice and Another City. His collections of poems also include The Most Natural Thing, The Prayers of Others, The Clearing, and The Rose Inside. His translations include Carsten René Nielsen’s World Cut Out with Crooked Scissors and House Inspections, a Lannan Translations Selection; his most recent translation is Jan Wagner’s The Art of Topiary.

Praise and Prizes

  • “From Dante to Blake to Emily Dickinson, the poems in Keplinger’s latest book summon literary history (and geological history too) in an effort to understand modern life.”

    New York Times Book Review
  • “Keplinger’s Ice travels across time and space, both evoking the history of life on earth and focusing on personal losses, […] There is an arresting intimacy to the icy breadth of this collection, a sense of something unvisited before.”

    Rebecca Morgan Frank, Literary Hub
  • “[Ice] shifts gracefully from geological epochs to intimate moments. In the opening poem, locals are searching for a mammoth tusk. Later, we see a grandmother mending socks. Glaciers collapse in the warming climate, while far away a mother reads Emily Dickinson on her deathbed. What does it mean to live in these latter days when ‘we run false hope / as if it were a red light’?”

    Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book Club
  • “David Keplinger’s Ice is Seamus Heaney’s North for the twenty-first century, which is to say that it knows history’s reverberating circle, how we learn about our contemporary selves from what, of itself, Earth chooses to exhume. From ice: a body. From ice: evidence, or parable, or prayer. With the precision of a clockmaker, Keplinger twists a key and reveals the body-memory of a lost mother’s eyeglasses, the story a child’s thumbprint tells in a tub of pomade, the “pure love that dug deep” and preserved, in ice, a wolf pup for 18,000 years. In these tender, wondrous poems, the poet excavates Earth’s frozen archives of Anthropocene violence, preserved in the body, to remind us of the heft and joy of living.”

    Jenny Molberg
    author of Refusal
  • “Few books move me as wholly and profoundly as David Keplinger’s do. Aching and revelatory, Ice speaks to that part of us that wants to preserve our tenderness for this world and those in it. As the first poem considers the prehistoric wolf unearthed by the thaw of climate change, it asks ‘how the head got severed from the heart.’ As we turn the pages, the question invites us to examine our own history, our purpose, our legacy. The hurt, the poems reveal, is where we might come together to love the world and each other.”

    Blas Falconer
    author of Forgive the Body This Failure
  • “David Keplinger’s eighth book of poetry, Ice, reveals once again how he keeps returning to beginner’s mind to refresh his vision and his voice. In ‘Two Horses in a Field,’ he asks, ‘Is it the speechless speech / that makes their being here / together, unembarrassed, embraced, fill me with happiness?’ followed by, ‘I want to love the world like this.’ These poems are acts of love that come from and return to the silence that has seen it all and embraced all of it. There is no greater love than that. As I finished the book, I found myself deeply at home in this poet’s company. I believe that many others will find the same.”

    Parker J. Palmer
    author of Let Your Life Speak
  • “Keep watch for David Keplinger. His poems, with their exquisite immediacy and valor, confront us with what we need to see: our intimate part in the fate of our planet. Yet even in the anguish, we experience the beauty of it, and feel a kind of redemption in the truth-telling. You will want all your friends to read this book.”

    Joanna Macy
    author of Active Hope
  • “Reading Ice is like crossing a threshold into timelessness as we navigate the intersections of history, science, literature, and spirituality. Keplinger’s masterful craft connects past and presence while deftly underlining the relationship between loss and astonishment. It’s like the poet says when looking at two horses who seem to be embracing each other in a field: “I want to love/the world like this”. Keplinger has written a timely, noteworthy collection. A must read.”

    Leo Simonovis, EcoTheo Collective