“Unlike many artists, Cohen enjoys interviews, and plays them like a favourite computer game”

Leonard Cohen Gives Good Interview

Ongoing readers will recognize Leonard Cohen gives good interview as a Cohencentric mantra. This excerpt from A Purple Haze To A Purple Patch by Adam Sweeting (The Canberra Times: July 24, 1994) reinforces the same concept.

Also see Brian Johnson On Leonard Cohen’s Masterful Interview Technique

Posts featuring interviews are collected at Interviews – Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen, Patricia Rozema, & The How To Be Happy Documentary


This entry began as a How About That? sort of post about Leonard Cohen’s involvement in a contemplated but never executed documentary. Soon, however, the notion of a documentary transformed from subject to substrate, and the focus became the interaction between Patricia Rozema, who was to direct the documentary, and Leonard Cohen, singer-songwriter, poet, icon, and potential documentary topic.

This kind of thing happens a lot around here.

How To Be Happy – The Documentary

In 2006, the pilfering of Leonard Cohen’s savings (“enough,” he commented “to put a dent in one’s mood”) led to a proposal for a documentary about him, in part, as a means of replenishing his funds. Asked if she would be interested in working on the project. Patricia Rozema, a Toronto-based film director, writer and producer,1 and a fan who doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t know about Leonard Cohen, responded with “I’d pay to do it.”

Consequently, she and Leonard met in New York to discuss possibilities. They discussed such matters as the documentary’s storyline, theme, and structure (one idea was to film Leonard at dinners with friends and family), And, when they discovered Patricia had another project in mind called “How To Be Unbearably Happy” and Leonard had serendipitously written a poem called “How To Be Happy,” they decided the name of the film was fated to be “How To Be Happy.” They also touched on Leonard’s fiscal problems that had him reeling, although he was “more perplexed than angry.”

Nonetheless, Patricia’s memories center not on the documentary but on Leonard himself. For example,

I explained to Leonard that I usually work with fictional characters so they are putty in my hands. Leonard looked at me and said, ‘Patricia, I would love to be putty in your hands.’

As Patricia notes.

Leonard is charming and open. Every word from his mouth is a jewel.

The 2006 Indigo Bookstore Event – Toronto

Two years before the 2008 World Tour, Leonard Cohen spent the Saturday afternoon of May 13th, 2006 listening to – and occasionally singing along with – Anjani, Ron Sexsmith, and the Barenaked Ladies performing his songs. (See Videos & Photos: Leonard Cohen, Anjani, Ron Sexsmith, Barenaked Ladies At Indigo – Toronto 2006)  As part of this documentary, Patricia filmed Cohen’s performance with Anjani & Ron Sexsmith

It was at the Indigo event that Leonard admitted to Rozema some discomfort with being in the public eye after such a long period of solitude.

Leonard & Patricia

After the 2006 Toronto event, Patricia and Leonard met a handful of times, including another New York rendezvous during which Patricia was introduced to Lou Reed. They also communicated on many topics via email, an exchange that continued even after the project was abandoned, ceasing only with Leonard’s death.

Patricia’s predominant, enduring impression is of a “gentle man” who invariably displayed “deep respect” and possessed the unique gift of combining “the profane and the sacred.”

I can think of no better way to close this post than than with this heartfelt advice Leonard proffered to Patricia;

You must do the thing you want most.
We are all our own crash test dummies.


Credit Due Department: The outstanding photos of the Indigo event were taken by Joan Vinall-Cox, who has enjoyed Cohen’s poetry and songs since 1968 when she bought his first album. She was in position to take these pictures because of winning two fourth-row seats to the show in a contest she had forgotten entering. Happily for viewers, she and daughter Meryle were able to attend (and reportedly had a lovely time).

  1. Her work includes I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Mansfield Park, Into the Forest, In Treatment, Grey Gardens, Mozart In The Jungle, and Anne, along with others
  1. Her work includes I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Mansfield Park, Into the Forest, In Treatment, Grey Gardens, Mozart In The Jungle, and Anne, along with others []

Outstanding Photos: Dec 7, 2013 Leonard Cohen Geelong Concert + “Troubles of a Troubadour”


These eight striking photos were taken by Ted McDonnell, the Australian photojournalist who previously contributed Exclusive Photos of the 2013 Leonard Cohen Bercy Concert  Ted writes:

Legendary singer, songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen and his ensemble captivated thousands of Australian fans at the Day on the Green concert in Geelong, Victoria. Cohen hinted it may well be one of his final concerts in Australia.

Troubles of a Troubadour

Continue Reading →

Zen’s 10 Oxherding Pictures & Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”

In Let The Grief Inform Your Throat (JenniferWarnes.com), Jennifer Warnes offers, among other matters, her account of how Leonard Cohen introduced “Ballad of the Absent Mare” to her.

After being away on a silent retreat, Leonard Cohen came over to my house wearing an old beige MacGregor jacket, and his face was radiant. There was a little leap inside him. It’s impossible to be sad around Leonard when he is filled up like this because his smile comes from deep places. He came over to share a brand new song, called The Ballad of the Absent Mare. Not every day this happens

… Leonard had found some old pictures somewhere. They were called The Ten Bulls, old Japanese woodcuts symbolizing the stages of a monk’s life on the road to enlightenment. These carvings pictured a boy and a bull, the boy losing the bull, the bull hiding, the boy realizing that the bull was nearby all along. There is a struggle, and finally the boy rides the bull into his little village. “I thought this would make a great cowboy song”, he joked.

A scholarly examination of the relationship of these images, used for centuries to illustrate “the stages of a practitioner’s progression towards the purification of the mind and enlightenment, as well as his or her subsequent return into the world while acting out of wisdom,”1 can be found at Green, R., (2017). Teaching Zen’s Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s “Ballad of the Absent Mare”. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts. 24(1), pp.29–58. The abstract follows:

This paper describes how to teach Zen’s famous Ten Oxherding Pictures through Leonard Cohen’s song “Ballad of the Absent Mare.” It also explains how instructors can contextualize these pictures within the history of Buddhist visual culture and thereby frame Cohen’s adoption of them as a cowboy ballad motif. The essay begins by describing the metaphor of the ox. It then reviews three theories about the origin of the pictures, contextualizing them within the history of Buddhist visual culture. Finally, it provides a PowerPoint presentation that connects each of the Ten Oxherding Pictures to verses of Cohen’s song and offers comments for instructors’ use in class.

Credit Due Department: Graphic atop post by Tenshō Shūbun – Shokoku-ji Temple website, Public Domain, Via Wikipedia Commons


  1. Wikipedia []

Video: One Montreal Institution Pays Tribute To Another – Aislin Talks About Leonard Cohen

Aislin aka Terry Mosher began working for The Montreal Star, in 1967, moving to the Montreal Gazette in 1972. His cartoons have been published in numerous other publications and he has authored more than 40 books. Maclean’s has called Aislin “probably the best satirist in Canada.”

Aislin’s Leonard Cohen cartoons featured in this video may be viewed at

Recommended Reading: El Montreal de Leonard Cohen [Leonard Cohen’s Montreal]

Suzanne Cohen alerts us to El Montreal de Leonard Cohen [Leonard Cohen’s Montreal] by José Manuel Abad Liñán (El Pais: July 14, 2017), an article that integrates Montreal’s geography with pertinent portions of Leonard’s biography. The following excerpt offers a sense of the piece as well as its ability to be read in Google Translate English:

Although many of his own or adapted lyrics distill political dyes (The Partisan, Democracy, First We Take Manhattan), Cohen always flew over the political conflict between communities that has shaken Québec life in the last decades, even in the hardest years , With the attacks of the Liberation Front of Quebec. When a French-speaking journalist urged her to say why she had not supported the region’s struggle for independence in the late 1970s, he replied: “I am in favor of the Free State of Montreal. I do not live in a country, I live in a neighborhood, in a universe apart from the rest. I am neither Canadian nor Quebec. I am, and always will be, from Montreal. ” His political stances were like his fashion, elegant. He tiptoed through all the fashions because he always knew that even if they gave prominence at the beginning, then they could weigh him down.

Cohencentric posts on Leonard’s hometown are collected at

Credit Due Department: Photo by Sally Hunter