Hear Leonard Cohen Recite 6 Poems & Talk About The Book of Longing, Roshi, Irving Layton, Aging ….

booklonginxgIn May 2006, Shelagh Rogers interviewed Leonard Cohen about his just published collection of poetry, Book Of Longing. In addition to touching on a number of topics, including his stay at the Mt Baldy Zen monastery, Leonard reads the following poems:

  • Layton’s Question
  • Fun
  • Only One Thing Made Him Happy
  • Disturbed This Morning
  • Fun
  • Titles

Leonard Cohen on The Book Of Longing
CBC Interview with Shelagh Rogers: May 2006

Hear Classic 1988 Leonard Cohen Interview: How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns

Shure_mikrofon_55S-700This is an extraordinary interview that includes this quotation that I consider the touchstone of Leonard Cohen’s perspective:

That’s what it’s all about. It says that none of this – you’re not going to be able to work this thing out – you’re not going to be able to set – this realm does not admit to revolution – there’s no solution to this mess. The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah! That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.

The following description is from Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988 at the RTE site:

From the RTÉ archives: Kildare-born novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist and former RTÉ radio producer John MacKenna made two feature programmes in the RTÉ Radio Centre with Leonard Cohen in 1988, entitled ‘How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns’. Together, they offer a remarkable insight to Cohen’s life and work. Below, you can listen to them both in full. (From Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988)

Note: A transcript of this broadcast is available at Transcript: 1988 RTE (LeonardCohenFiles)

The first programme ‘How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns’ is entitled ‘Isaac to Joan of Arc’ in which Cohen discusses his interest in and attitude to heroic figures in history. (From Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988)

Programme 2 is entitled ‘If I Have Been Untrue’  and considers songs about people in the street. (From Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988)

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post “Shure mikrofon 55S” by Holger.EllgaardOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Songwriting, Poetry & Zen – 2007 Interview

lcfileLeonard Cohen speaks to Mark Lawson in a rare interview from 2007

This is a solid, albeit not spectacular interview, coming in 2007 while the 2008 Tour was in planning. Contents include:

  • The recently published Book Of Longing
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep as an example of a poem that became a song
  • Cohen’s use of notebooks
  • Suzanne as an example of a song in which the chords preceded the lyrics
  • Cohen’s realization that his “voice sounds better surrounded by female voices”
  • The translation of Take This Waltz
  • The Dylan anecdote about the time it takes him and the time it takes Cohen to write a song
  • Cohen’s use of a rhyming dictionary to prime his mind
  • Cohen’s admiration of rappers as the modern masters of rhyme
  • The notion that the ear is delighted by rhymes and near rhymes
  • The use of “go clear” and its Scientology reference in Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Cohen’s use of Christian references
  • Leonard Cohen’s fascination with many forms of religion
  • The journalistic approach to songwriting
  • Cohen’s relationship with Roshi
  • The reasons Cohen entered the Zen monastery
  • The lack of encouragement in childhood to be writer
  • Planning the 2008 tour
  • Cohen’s stage fright and the consequent drinking
  • The embezzlement of his funds

Credit Due Department: I discovered this interview in a Facebook post by Gordana Stupar

Must See Video: Full Version Of Leonard Cohen Appearance On 1992 Danish Talk Show

talkshowetLeonard Cohen was the only guest on S2E5 of the Danish talk show, Talkshowet (Dec 5, 1992).  Videos of this show of various lengths and quality have been intermittently available online but then disappear. Martin alerts us that the entire 1 hour, 5 minute episode in good resolution can be accessed – until February 8, 2017.

This is a must-see for Leonard Cohen fans.  Featured are

  • Leonard Cohen demonstrating how to make his Red Needles cocktail
  • A discussion of the myth of Leonard Cohen as ladies’ man
  • The differentiation of depression and seriousness
  • The necessity of destroying old versions of one’s self to make an album
  • Leonard Cohen on Miami Vice

One word of advice: don’t let the talk show host annoy you. Leonard takes him on stride; you can, too

If the above video player doesn’t work for you, you can view this video on its host site at DR-Talkshowet

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who alerted me to this video appearing on YouTube.

Video: Leonard Cohen On Being A Jewish Writer, A Canadian & A Seeker Of G-D (1964)

Note: This is a companion piece of sorts to Video: Leonard Cohen Speaks About G-D Consciousness And Judaism (1964)

From the YouTube Description:

Leonard Cohen speaks about being a Canadian Jewish writer. His profound statements still resonate, today, 50 years later.  I have culled these comments from a recording of a seminar held at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal in June 1964. Cohen participated in a panel along with the great Canadian Jewish writers Melech Ravitch, Adele Wiseman and Ruth Wisse. It took place three years before Cohen’s 1967 transition from being a Canadian poet to an internationally known singer-songwriter. Also included are some of Cohen’s dialogue with the audience during the question and answer session.

Cohen had a life-long, passionate engagement with religious Judaism. It began with the hevruta (study pair) he had with his grandfather, an important rabbi and talmudist. In mid-life Cohen became renowned for his practice of Zen Bhuddism (a non theistic practice) and eventually became a bhuddist monk. But Cohen never stopped studying Torah or practicing mitzvoth that he found meaningful. Many of his best songs offer profound midrashim (homiletic interpretations) of Torah and apply them to the problems of life.

A strange coincidence : the women with a Yiddish accent who challenges Cohen during the Q&A is Hava Rosenfarb, a respected Yiddish novelist and holocaust survivor. Her then husband is the man with a Polish accent who questions Cohen’s belief that the Jewish people have a unique mission. This man was Dr. Henry Morgantaller, who a decade later would become a household name in Canada for his campaign to legalize abortion.

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who first alerted me to this video