Ranjit Hoskote was born in Mumbai and educated at the Bombay Scottish School, Elphinstone College, where he read for a BA in Politics, and the University of Bombay, where he took an MA in English Literature and Aesthetics.
Hoskote belongs to the younger generation of Indian poets who began to publish their work during the early 1990s. He is the author of five collections of poetry: Zones of Assault, The Cartographer's Apprentice, The Sleepwalker's Archive, Vanishing Acts: New & Selected Poems 1985-2005 and Central Time. Hoskote has been seen as extending the Anglophone Indian poetry tradition established by Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel, A.K. Ramanujan and others through "major new works of poetry". His work has been published in numerous Indian and international journals, including Poetry Review (London), Wasafiri, Poetry Wales, Nthposition, The Iowa Review, Green Integer Review, Fulcrum (annual), Rattapallax, Lyric Poetry Review, West Coast Line, Kavya Bharati, Prairie Schooner, Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, The Four Quarters Magazine and Indian Literature. His poems have also appeared in German translation in Die Zeit, Akzente, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Wespennest and Art & Thought/ Fikrun-wa-Fann. He is the author of four collections of poetry, has translated the Marathi poet Vasant Abaji Dahake, co-translated the German novelist and essayist Ilija Trojanow, and edited an anthology of contemporary Indian verse. His poems have appeared in many major anthologies, including Language for a New Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008). and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (Newcastle: Bloodaxe, 2008).
Hoskote has also translated the 14th-century Kashmiri mystic-poet Lal Ded, variously known as Lalleshwari, Lalla and Lal Arifa, for the Penguin Classics imprint, under the title I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded. This publication marks the conclusion of a 20-year-long project of research and translation for the author.
The critic Bruce King writes of Hoskote's early work in his influential Modern Indian Poetry in English (revised edition: Oxford, 2001): "Hoskote has an historical sense, is influenced by the surreal, experiments with metrics and has a complex sense of the political... An art critic, he makes much use of landscapes, the sky and allusions to paintings. His main theme... is life as intricate, complicated, revolutionary movements in time... We live in a world of flux which requires violence for liberation, but history shows that violence itself turns into oppression and death." Reviewing Hoskote's first book of poems, Zones of Assault, in 1991 for India Today, the poet Agha Shahid Ali wrote: "Hoskote wants to discover language, as one would a new chemical in a laboratory experiment. This sense of linguistic play, usually missing from subcontinental poetry in English, is abundant in Hoskote’s work." A decade later, reviewing Hoskote's third volume, The Sleepwalker's Archive, for The Hindu in 2001, the poet and critic Keki Daruwalla wrote: "It is the way he hangs on to a metaphor, and the subtlety with which he does it, that draws my admiration (not to mention envy)... Hoskote’s poems bear the 'watermark of fable': behind each cluster of images, a story; behind each story, a parable. I haven’t read a better poetry volume in years."