On Learning of Leonard Cohen’s Death

Souradeep Roy remembers Leonard Cohen with a poem and an anecdote 

Now, to wake up to the news of your death
is to give up all hope of writing an aubade.

You were with me
when things were tough
and I played you in my tiny rented room.
Two years since then,
several things have happened.
But you were there my friend.

Among other things, they gave away the Nobel.
I wasn’t angry they gave it to the Everest;
I was angry that they gave it to the Everest for its height,
not for, let’s say, its sublimeness.

I know this is not the time for posthumous prizes,
but take these verses as a little token instead
from this little poet,
still living in a rented apartment,
writing on the day of your death.
This day, perhaps like that one in New York,
when it was cold,
and you sang of a famous blue raincoat;
it’s cold here too in New Delhi,
and I like it here, just as well. But hey!
That’s no way to say goodbye my friend!

Now, to wake up to the news of your death
is to give up all hope of writing an aubade.

To compensate, write, at least,
a hundred elegies instead.


There is always this anecdote when it comes to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. It’s about the time they took to write their verses. The anecdote is about “Hallelujah”, which took Cohen five years to write. When Cohen asked Dylan how much time he took to write the lyrics of a song Cohen liked very much, Dylan said it took him fifteen minutes. When I was younger, I, of course, thought Dylan was the greater of the two; the lesser time you take to write the better you are as a poet. Now, a few years later, I understand that it’s the reverse, for the same reasons. It takes years to perfect a poem, or a translation. And it never reaches its perfection. The final poem is always an abandoned poem. And that is why Cohen, would be the better poet: because he took five years to abandon writing “Halleluah”. Dylan, on the other hand, took fifteen minutes.


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Souradeep Roy Written by:

Souradeep Roy is a research scholar at the Department of English, University of Delhi. He currently works as part of the editorial collective of Indian Cultural Forum and Guftugu, both projects of the Indian Writers' Forum. He is also a poet and an actor. Most recently, he was invited to read by the Sahitya Akademi.

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