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
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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- 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) [↩]