Title: Find Me, Leonard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty
Author: Amit Ranjan
Publisher: Red River
Amit Ranjan’s debut anthology of poems takes its name from an essay he wrote in May 2015 in The Equator Line. The same essay has been included in this book with minor edits, and the opening verse of the 2015 essay is the eponymous poem. But that is neither here or there. As the several review blurbs included in the book says, Ranjan’s poetry is very Cohenesque. Ranjan himself says in the essay, he “tries indolently to write like” Cohen. But this anthology is more than a tribute to Cohen — it is Ranjan’s journey as a poet too. That journey is not evident if the poems are read in the order published. However, take the poems out of the ‘smart’ categories they have been put under and read them in according to the years they were written, there is a rite of passage that the poet has completed. One that is seemingly effortless, but is, in fact, a lot more painstaking than it appears.
For a collection that spans the poet’s writing years, the book is quite small. The book is peppered with Cohen’s own poetry. Ranjan, like Cohen, is a writer-poet: A master of literary wordplay. Like Cohen’s poems and songs, there is a deeper meaning and feeling in each of Ranjan’s poems. You will love some, you will scratch your head about some other. And yet, there is indescribable emotion — that you missed something, that there is a story behind the poem, within the poem. Most of Ranjan’s creations evoke this, and still, there is a wry humour that holds some other hidden meaning altogether. Any ’90s child would see that in the backward classification in the Index: Name, Place, Animal, Thing; with a very Cohenesque extra ‘Remembering’.
Not just poetry, the artwork in the book is worth a second, even a third look. Some of them are just an artist’s rendition of a poet’s thoughts. But any patron of art can find some meaning in all the artwork. There is a deliberately antiquated portrait of Ranjan’s grandmother — who was also one of the first people to encourage (and tolerate) Ranjan’s creative bent of mind, then there is a mosaic portrait of a man-boy, who could be Ranjan in his youth himself. Or the artist’s Portrait Of The Self because it accompanies a poem of the same name.
Just like Cohen, Ranjan, too, packs several emotions in his debut anthology. This is a collection of Ranjan’s view of and on romance, love, life, grief, belief, jealousy, humour — even death. If you think you can appreciate a wry verse, or even someone else’s wordplay, Find Me, Leo-nard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty is the first book to be picked off the shelf. It’s a short read but leaves a long impression.