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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Praise and Prizes
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”