Irving Layton, Norman Mailer, & Leonard Cohen Meet In Cohen’s “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. Today’s offering is a scholarly exploration of links between poems by Leonard Cohen and his friend, Irving Layton, which intersect with Norman Mailer as the nexus.

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Leonard Cohen has second thoughts about poem threatening Norman Mailer after reciting it to Norman Mailer

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I actually recited the poem [‘Dear Mailer’] to [Norman] Mailer with a smile, at some reading where we met up. He didn’t punch me out but he was alarmed. He said, ‘God, don’t publish that. You don’t know that some loony isn’t going to be excited by it and do what you threatened to do.’ It really scared him. I then had second thoughts about the poem because suddenly I saw it from his point of view. Earlier, I saw it as a humorous response to the position he was taking at the time, coming on like a bully. I had a real laugh when I originally wrote it. I then tried to stop its publication but it had already gone to press.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde (Sabatoge Times: Posted ; the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview).

Also see Mordecai Richler Threatens To Punch Leonard Cohen In The Nose

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. Today’s offering is Cohen’s own rethinking of the impact of these lines.

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

Disguises – The Other Leonard Cohen Poem Referencing Northeastern Lunch

firsthitlerWhile the recent stories about the discovery of Northwestern Lunch sign in Montreal point out that the diner inspired Leonard Cohen’s poem, Les Vieux (text and audio recording at Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Les Vieux), it is not the only Leonard Cohen poem to reference Northeastern Lunch.  Disguises, first published in Flowers For Hitler, has a verse devoted to the denizens of that eatery.

Disguises
By Leonard Cohen [highlighting mine]

I am sorry that the rich man must go
and his house become a hospital.
I loved his wine, his contemptuous servants,
his ten-year-old ceremonies.
I loved his car which he wore like a snail’s shell
everywhere, and I love his wife,
the hours she put into her skin,
the milk, the lust, the industries
that served her complexion.
I loved his son who looked British
but had American ambitions
and let the word aristocrat comfort him
like a reprieve while Kennedy reigned.
I loved the rich man: I hate to see
his season ticket for the Opera
fall into a pool for opera-lovers.

I am sorry that the old worker must go
who called me mister when I was twelve
and sir when I was twenty
who studied against me in obscure socialist
clubs which met in restaurants.
I loved the machines he knew like a wife’s body.
I loved his wife who trained bankers
in an underground pantry
and never wasted her ambition in ceramics.
I love his children who debate
and come first at McGill University.
Goodbye old gold-watch winner
all your complex loyalties
must now be borne by one-faced patriots.

Goodbye dope fiends of North Eastern Lunch
circa 1948, your spoons which were not
Swedish Stainless, were the same color
as the hoarded clasps and hooks
of discarded soiled therapeutic corsets.
I loved your puns about snow
even if they lasted the full seven-month
Montreal winter. Go write your memoirs
for the Psychedelic Review.

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Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Les Vieux – Poem Inspired By Northeastern Lunch

,ythThe recent stories about the discovery of Northwestern Lunch sign in Montreal point out that the diner inspired Leonard Cohen’s poem, Les Vieux, written in 1954 when Cohen was 20 and published in Let Us Compare Mythologies. This seems an auspicious time to feature this poem in text and in Leonard Cohen’s own words.

Coming Attractions:  While Les Vieux has been the only Leonard Cohen poem mentioned in the stories about the sign discovery, it is not the only Leonard Cohen poem to reference Northeastern Lunch. Stay tuned. Update: See Disguises – The Other Leonard Cohen Poem Referencing Northeastern Lunch

Les Vieux
by Leonard Cohen

Northeastern Lunch
with rotting noses and tweed caps,
huddling in thick coats
and mumbling confidential songs
to ancient friends –
the public men of Montreal

Leonard Cohen Recites Les Vieux

Video: Hear Leonard Cohen Recite “Thousands” & “Mission” From Book Of Longing

booklonginxgThis audio-only video features Leonard Cohen reciting two short, lapidary poems, “Thousands” & “Mission,” from his Book of Longing.

Leonard Cohen Recites “Thousands” & “Mission”
From Book of Longing (2006)
Video by Allan Showalter

 

Lyrics: Thousands and Mission

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Enlisting Leonard Cohen & Henri Matisse In The Wooing Of The Duchess

dancexme-kissesNote: Originally posted Aug 21, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The First Gift To A Lover

Choosing the first gift in a courtship  can be a tricky affair.  Early in a relationship, those involved often lack sufficient knowledge of each other’s preferences, loathings, and interests to venture beyond cliched tokens such as flowers or chocolates.

Once, however, I introduced Duchess of Durham1 to the music and poems of Leonard Cohen and she had responded with enthusiastic interest – especially to Dance Me To The End Of Love – the  perfect present – uh, presented itself.

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Dance Me to the End of Love is described by its publishers, Welcome Books,2 as “a deliriously romantic song by Leonard Cohen that was brilliantly visualized through the sensual paintings of Henri Matisse.”

Leonard Cohen’s perception of a special connection with Matisse3 is made manifest in the fit of his lyrics to the paintings.

Dance Me to the End of Love was – and continues to be – one of the Duchess’s most treasured gifts and certainly appears to have enhanced my campaign to win her heart. Sharing a couple of her favorite images from the book seems an appropriate celebration of our upcoming nuptials.

 

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  1. Those unfamiliar with the DrHGuy – Duchess of Durham relationship can catch up on the basics at DrHGuy & Duchess Dancing To The End Of Love []
  2. Welcome Books is the publisher of several analogous books in its Art & Poetry Series. []
  3. “[Adam] Cohen said his father is a huge fan of French artist Henri Matisse” from Sketches by Leonard Cohen exhibited at Montreal High Lights Festival by Nelson Wyatt. The Canadian Press, February 19, 2010 []