"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."
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. Keplinger's work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, and The Writer's Almanac, and has been translated and included in anthologies in China, Germany, Denmark, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere. The recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Keplinger has received support from the Soros Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Danish Arts Foundation. He has also received the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Colorado Book Award, the Cavafy Prize from Poetry International, and the Erksine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace. Keplinger directs the MFA program at American University in Washington, DC.
Interested in this event? Check out our online class: Reading Poetry by David Keplinger