There are many firsts in our lives: the first time we walk, our first word, the first time we fall from our bicycles, etc. However, for every writer, their first published work is what moulds their writing trajectory. It is, more often than not, an overwhelming experience to share one’s vulnerable and intimate feelings and thoughts with the world. Their words become the reader’s as well, their words will be perceived and interpreted in thousands of different ways, and a personal experience becomes a collective experience.
I stumbled across A Leaf upon a Book and the intriguing title made me flip through the pages, and I was immersed in it from the beginning to the end. Anam Tariq has brilliantly inscribed her poems in this debut poetry collection of hers. This collection is a literal timeline of her poems, and the evolution and growth of the poet are prominently profound.
Anam Tariq did her M.A. in English from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh, India. She tries to indite poetry that resonates with everyone. Her poems have appeared in three consecutive Women’s College Magazines (at AMU), poetry anthologies Going Off The Grid, and India Without A Mask: The Poetics & Politics Of The Pandemic, INKochi Cultural eMagazine, The Punch Magazine, New Reader Magazine, The Alipore Post, Live Wire and elsewhere.
Her poems are rife with extended metaphors and imagery that create an entire scenic visualisation in the readers’ minds. One of her poems, “Lawlessness,” is the one with which I resonated the most, as it reflects the current political scenario all over the world. These lines were a reality check:
“While some states display total lawlessness,
a jungle with its denizens roaming free;
others design a loosely-knit structure
of rules and penalties
with no proper implementation and remedies”
By comparing lawlessness to a jungle, this extended metaphor implies the fear of control and frustration of broken promises by leaders.
The twenty-five poems written over a span of six years are an astute culmination of the poet’s efforts and creativity. The poet’s writing style is quite unique, it is either written in couplets or quatrains, occasionally experimenting with the forms, and most of her poems have a set rhyme scheme. She writes on a diverse range of topics like childhood, existential themes of life and its mundaneness, and the serene beauty of nature. Illustrations for these poems have been created by Farah Ziauddin, and these illustrations elevate the poems and bring a sense of closure.
Although most of the poems can be easily comprehended and interpreted on the first reading, some poems require some time to get used to the slightly cryptic language and a prior contextual understanding of the religion Islam as the poet draws allusions to religious figures. Some of her poems are inspired by paragons of poetry, for example, the poem “Children in the Park” is inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “New Hampshire.”
Her poems primarily focus on nostalgia, a drive to relive childhood days, and a strong censure towards the discriminatory treatment of this world and society. Overall, it’s a lovely fusion of contemporary poetry and classical writing style that’s a must-read.