“In the sweaty, passionate, filthy embrace [of sexual ecstasy], in all of its delicious and time-dissolving power, in the midst of that embrace there is no difference, no separation between the spiritual and the profane.” Leonard Cohen


Pico Iyer: ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’ implies the dissolving of time in the moment of sexual ecstasy. To what extent do you make a distinction between the sexual and the spiritual when it comes to absolute?

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In the sweaty, passionate, filthy embrace, in all of its delicious and time-dissolving power, in the midst of that embrace there is no difference, no separation between the spiritual and the profane. But it’s reached through the profane rather than through the spiritual, at least in my canon. That is the portal, that is the door into the whole affair. In that moment there is no separation, there is no spirit and flesh, there’s no conflict, there never was. It’s dissolved.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen:  Several Lifetimes Already by Pico Iyer (Shambhala Sun, September, 1998). Update: No longer online. Originally posted Nov 26, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Early Versions Of “Undertow”

Closing Time Notebook Version

From “Closing Time” — In-depth Study Page 63 at the Essential Leonard Cohen site (see image above). “Closing Time” required two years to write with Cohen even starting over from scratch on the song as late as March 19921

I set out for love
but I did not know
I’d be caught in the grip
of an undertow
to be spit out on this shore /to be tossed in the shore/
where the sea hates to go
with a child in my arms
and a chill in my soul
and my heart ’bout the size
of a begging bowl

Mount Baldy Version

From Leonard Cohen:  Several Lifetimes Already by Pico Iyer (Shambhala Sun, September, 1998). Update: This article is no longer online. The same verse, however, can be found at Leonard Cohen Unplugged by Pico Iyer (Buzz, Los Angeles: April 1998)

I set out for love, but I did not know I’d be caught in the grip of an undertow. To be swept to a shore, where the sea needs to go, with a child in my arms, and a chill in my soul, and my heart the size of a begging-bowl.

Studio Version

From Dear Heather album (2004)

I set out one night
When the tide was low
There were signs in the sky
But I did not know
I’d be caught in the grip
Of the undertow
Ditched on a beach
Where the sea hates to go
With a child in my arms
And a chill in my soul
And my heart the shape
Of a begging bowl

Note: Originally posted September 22, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. In the process of updating this post, I discovered that Tom Sakic set out the same three versions in a June 3, 2005 LeonardCohenForum post – which predates not only my DrHGuy.com post on this issue but also precedes my first Leonard Cohen post of any sort. The moral  of this tale is, of course, too much research is a dangerous thing.

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  1. Source: Various Positions by Ira Nadel (1996 ) []

Leonard Cohen on America, the Soviet Union, Maoists, & President Reagan

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Well, I love America. I have defended America all the time, especially when European intellectuals found it de rigueur to attack America, and were proposing first of all that the Soviet Union had the answer to human destiny, and even more so when the Maoists really had a message for industrial America — as I used to say, ‘From the lovely people who brought you bound feet.’ I’ve always defended America, especially against the shameful performance of European intellectuals. Even President Reagan knew far more about what was really going on.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From A Purple Haze To A Purple Patch by Adam Sweeting (The Canberra Times: July 24, 1994)

Leonard Cohen invokes Spinal Tap, describes himself as “the tiny Stonehenge of rock stardom”

Interviewer to Leonard Cohen: “Maybe you’re only cult size, but you’re still a ‘rock star'”

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You know that great scene in Spinal Tap where they get the scale of Stonehenge wrong? Well, you can legitimately call me a rock star, but it’s in that scaled down way—I’m like the tiny Stonehenge of rock stardom.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Idol Chatter column by Brantley Bardin in Premiere magazine (June 2006). Note: Originally posted November 26, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I feel most comfortable when I think of myself as the leader of a government-in-exile…It gives me a position that I can work from.” Leonard Cohen

firstweta
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I feel most comfortable when I think of myself as the leader of a government-in-exile. Sometimes I like to think of myself that way. It gives me a position that I can work from. It is not whether I take it seriously or not seriously, we are not speaking about a rational operation. It is just that one feels that one can embody the unspoken aspirations of both oneself and the people you know as somebody who takes responsibility for the predicament, and presents not a solution but an approach. That leads you to some interesting kinds of positions.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted May 22, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric