Maria Viana At The Leonard Cohen Archives: Letters, Drawings, Poems, & Other Titles Considered For Let Us Compare Mythologies

Maria Viana spent six hours delving into Leonard Cohen’s archives at the University of Toronto. These following excerpts from A look inside U of T’s massive archive of Leonard Cohen poems, letters and pictures by Jennifer Cheng (Toronto Life: Nov 22, 2016) offer an overview of the contents:1

University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library [is] home to 140 banker’s boxes worth of Cohen’s archives. Throughout his career, Cohen donated scores of remnants to the library: handwritten notes and letters, portraits, CDs, paintings, novel manuscripts, books, early drafts of his poetry and lyrics, and even art he made when he lived as a Buddhist monk…

These notebooks came with the the manuscripts of Cohen’s second novel, Beautiful Losers, and first book of poetry book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, which Fisher bought in the early ’60s. (Apparently, Cohen lived off money from the sale for a year on the Greek island of Hydra—he would have been about 26, and rent was about $14 a month.) The books contain drafts of his poetry and lyrics, as well as relics of daily life: there’s a sketch of a rabbit named Cocoa, diary entries (“Where shall I go now?) and phone numbers. Cohen even scribbled a few words of a poem (“This cigarette…It’s clear to me that you will have to deceive me…”) on a piece of toilet paper

Maria writes:

I wish I had time to read and write down every single line of Leonard’s notes. I spent six hours in that tower of song, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, I will never thank enough Jennifer Toews for her time with me.

It wasn’t easy; the first box took me nearly two hours. The first thing I saw was a poem about a grave, so you can imagine the tears rolling down my face. That  happened a couple times. I felt inundated with his precious archives, words, notes, lines, drawings, first and second thoughts…
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  1. This article is an entertaining description of the collection with lots of photos – including one of Leonard wearing the wings of an angel. (Also see Where To Find Leonard Cohen’s Novel, “Indian Rockets;” His 1986 Genie Award Plaque; His TV Play,”The New Step” … & How They Got There) []

Read, Download Leonard Cohen Articles From Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities V9N1

Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies, Volume IX, Number 1, 2017, offers the full texts of three scholarly (but accessible) articles dealing with Leonard Cohen. The following links can be downloaded as PDF files.

1988 Press Photo: Leonard Cohen – “The Eminence Grise Of Art Song” and A “Semi-Household Word”

lc-1989-x-scaled1000inscript-scaled1000And “The Eminence Grise Of Art Song”

The press photo of Leonard Cohen displayed above is impressive, but the legend (second image above) that was part of the photo is also noteworthy for its description of Cohen:

Singer-composer Leonard Cohen in New York. He is still the eminence grise of art song, 21 years after Judy Collins’ version of “Suzanne” made him a semi-household word. (Must Credit: Photo for the Washington Post) Illustrates Cohen (category e), by Richard Harrington (Post). Moved Monday, Nov. 28. 1988, The Washington Post. [emphasis mine]

Followup research reveals that Richard Harrington wrote a Washington Post story called “Songs in Key of Gray; Leonard Cohen and the Legacy of His Dark-Hued Ballads” published October 30, 1988

Credit Due Department:: Tom Sakic found this gem at an auction site and alerted me to it.

Note: Originally posted April 4, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Origin Of Suzanne – The CBC Video Vs Leonard Cohen’s Account

This CBC video about Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Verdal, and the song “Suzanne” does offer photos of Suzanne from the 1960s that are otherwise unavailable online and would alone justify a viewing.  The video’s focus, however, certainly varies with Leonard’s own account, and its information is, at best incomplete.

There is also a potentially (and unintentionally) misleading section. The sequence beginning with the frame below carries the legend “early ’60s” but the video clip appears to be an excerpt from the ARTE documentary “Girls in Pop Songs” shot in 2011 (see Video: Suzanne Verdal Talks About Leonard Cohen & The Song He Wrote About Her).

The screen capture below is from the same video clip and shows Suzanne Verdal in 2011 rather than in a time contemporaneous with the writing of “Suzanne.”

Made In Canada: Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne’