Leonard Cohen & Pierre Trudeau: “He Was Kind” and “Reading To The Prime Minister”

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Leonard Cohen and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau were long time friends who often met on the rooftop deck of the Montreal home of their mutual friend, Nancy Southam. This drawing from Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen commemorates one of those meetings during which Trudeau asked Cohen to read a poem to him and then another and another. It was not long afterward that Cohen’s service to Trudeau was as honorary pallbearer.

The words superimposed on the graphic are reproduced below.

He was kind and powerful.
He asked me to read him
a poem. And then he asked
me for another. And another.
This was on the roof of
Nancy’s house, which she
called The Firestation.
Nancy gave us lunch, and
then I read some more. Later
many sorrows befell them
both.

Note: Originally posted July 21, 2010 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

An Halloween Poem to Delight My Younger Friends: Leonard Cohen’s First Published Work – With Notes

CIV/n #4 - The literary magazine that first published Leonard Cohen

CIV/n #4 – The literary magazine that first published Leonard Cohen

 

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I had started writing before I met [Louis Dudek] but it was he who published me first in CIV/n 4, a piece called ‘An Halloween Poem to Delight My Younger Friends.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen1

An Halloween Poem to Delight My Younger Friends
by Leonard Norman Cohen

(Ou sont les jeunes?)2

Impassive frogs, skins stretched taut,
grey with late October,
the houses down my street
crouched, unaware of each other.

Unaware of a significant wind
and mad children igniting heaps of rattling leaves
and the desperate cry of desperate birds.

Dry, stuffed, squatting frogs.

I don’t know where the children got the birds.
Certainly, there are few around my house. Oh,
there is the occasional sparrow or robin or wren,
but these were big birds.
There were several turns of parcel twine about
each bird to secure its wings and feet. It was
that particularly hard variety of twine that can’t
be pulled apart but requires a knife or scissors
to be cut.
I was so lost in the ritual that I’m not sure if
it was seven or eight they burnt.

Continue Reading →

  1. Louis Dudek: A Biographical Introduction by Susan Strumberg-Stein (Dundum: Jan 1, 1983) []
  2. See first entry under DrHGuy’s Notes []

Hear, Download Leonard Cohen’s 1966 Poetry Reading

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Leonard Cohen 1966 Poetry Reading At 92nd St YMHA-YWHA, NYC

While Leonard Cohen’s 1996 reading of his own poems is well known and has been available in the past in various formats, this podcast features excellent audio and an easy to download MP3 file.

An excerpt from the official blurb describes the content:

The video podcast above features Leonard Cohen reading here on February 14, 1966. He read several poems and performed one song that would become an all-time classic. In the excerpt above, Cohen reads two poems—“For E.J.P” and “You Have the Lovers”—and performs “The Stranger Song,” which became popular in 1967 with the release of Cohen’s debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen.

The recording may be heard via the player embedded below or downloaded as an MP3 at 92Y Podcast: From the Poetry Center Archive: Leonard Cohen In 1966.

Credit Due Department: “92Y jeh” by Jim.hendersonOwn work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons.

Note: Originally posted Apr 10, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

2006 Interview: Hear Leonard Cohen Talk About Fame, Getting Older, & The Difference Between Songs & Poems

Shure_mikrofon_55S-700 Leonard Cohen Discusses Life is a PBS interview first broadcast 28 June 2006.  This link leads to an audio recordings of the interview by Jeffery Brown as well as a transcript.

While Leonard Cohen, in this interview, focuses primarily on the process and significance of writing poetry,1 he also deals with aging.

JEFFREY BROWN: This sense of aging is in this book.
LEONARD COHEN: Yes, definitely.
JEFFREY BROWN: Does that signify you are, in fact, feeling that?
LEONARD COHEN: Oh, of course, sure. Of course you feel it, you know. My friend, Irving Layton, our greatest Canadian poet, he said, ‘The inescapable lousiness of growing old.’
JEFFREY BROWN: ‘The inescapable lousiness of growing old?’
LEONARD COHEN: That’s right. That’s right.

My own perception is that Jeffrey Brown sounds, like most of us, as though he is in denial about Leonard Cohen’s age and mortality. That this situation mirrors the denial most of us maintain about the surety of our own demise because our discomfort with the notion is no less true for being a pop psychology cliche.

Leonard Cohen, on the other hand, seems determined to focus and refocus on the issue, mining his own aging as one more rich vein of human experience to be transformed into images and texture for his poetry, his songs – and his interviews.

The broadcast, which is well worth a listen, can be found at Leonard Cohen Discusses Life

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

Note: Originally posted January 21, 2008 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Leonard Cohen also recites two of his poems. These recitations have been extracted and can be heard without the interview at Video: Hear Leonard Cohen Recite “Thousands” & “Mission” From Book Of Longing []

Video: Leonard Cohen Recites His Poem “I Perceived The Outline Of Your Breasts” 1972

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“I Perceived The Outline Of Your Breasts” was first published in The Energy of Slaves (1972).

Note: Although the first line of the poem is missing in this excerpt from the Bird On A Wire documentary (filmed in 1972), the recitation and the visual elements are lovely enough to justify its presentation here.

Leonard Cohen – I Perceived The Outline Of Your Breasts
From Bird On A Wire documentary: 1972

Leonard Cohen’s Commentary On Censorship & Obscenity In “Dear Mailer”

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The “Dear Mailer” Series

“Dear Mailer” is a short poem by Leonard Cohen published in The Energy Of Slaves (1972)  that has provoked some interesting responses.  This brief series of “Dear Mailer” – Leonard Cohen posts lays out these thoughts for consideration.

Obscenity: Violence Vs Sex In “Dear Mailer”

Music critic Rob Mackie in 19751 notes that that Cohen’s lines contain a nugget that presages the current debate on censorship of sexual vs violent material.

Cohen has his own comment on obscenity in a poem called “Dear Mailer.” One line goes “don’t ever fuck with me.” Another goes “I will k–l you.”

Dear Mailer
By Leonard Cohen

From The Energy Of Slaves

Dear Mailer
don’t ever fuck with me
or come up to me
and punch my gut
on behalf of one of your theories
I am armed and mad
Should I suffer
the smallest humiliation
at your hand
I will k–l you
and your entire family

______________________

  1. Romance at the Broncoburger by Rob Mackie (New Musical Express: April 5, 1975) []