Wesleyan Univ. Apr. 2023. 120p. ISBN 9780819500533. $26; pap. ISBN 9780819500557. $15.95. POETRY
In pristine, conversational language shot through with sharp imagery and a meditative sense of life’s key questions, award-winning Indian poet/critic Hoskote examines who we are (it’s “what we’ve lost”), where we are (“Let me tell you/ why you’re here”), our search for self (“the valley into which/ you’re rappelling// is you”), and our momentous efforts to express ourselves (his breath “leaving me to catch up/ halting and ranging in its wake/ calling out to it by every name/ I have waited all my life to speak”). If loss figures largely in his ponderings (“What we’ve lost/ reclaims us”), so does the future. One poem muses on paths to take (“Have I stood here before??”), while elsewhere a man clambering up a mountain peak clutching a contracted earth “[gazes]/ down steep slopes to the promised land.” And if “Paishachi” looks back to speak of theories about a successor language to Sanskit that literally translates as the “language of ghosts,” “Apostle” examines Russian poet Anna Akhmatova’s sense of the visiting Isaiah Berlin as a “guest from the future.” Throughout, readers will feel forever on the verge.
VERDICT 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.
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