Read Online – Al Purdy’s “Highly Personal Look At The Writings Of Leonard Cohen” 1964

Compass Points By Al Purdy

In 1964, Al Purdy, who has been called Canada’s “unofficial poet laureate,” wrote a 14 page consideration of Leonard Cohen’s prose and poetry, which was published as Alfred Purdy, “Leonard Cohen: A Personal Look” in  Canadian Literature 23 (Winter 1965). It’s an interesting discussion – very much a poet’s perspective on another poet’s work.


Spoiler Alert

As a sampling from the piece, I’ve excerpted below the final two paragraphs (click on image to enlarge):


As far as I can determine, this paper is available for viewing only at the A.W. Purdy Digital Archive hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Special Collections. It’s an insightful, worthwhile read, accessible at

Compass points: A highly personal look
at the writings of Leonard Cohen

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post by Shaun Merritt – Al Purdy Memorial – by Edwin and Veronica Dam de Nogales, CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia Commons. Originally posted Feb 12, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Anjani Thomas Sings 2 Songs With Lyrics By Leonard Cohen – St. John’s 2013


Song To Make Me Still & Standing On The Stairs

spiceboxSong To Make Me Still is a poem from Spice Box of Earth, a volume of Leonard Cohen’s poetry published in 1961 when Cohen was 27 years old.

Lower your eyelids
over the water
Join the night
like the trees
you lie under

How many crickets
How many waves
easy after easy
on the one way shore

There are stars
from another view
and a moon
to draw the seaweed through

No one calls the crickets vain
in their time
in their time
No one will call you idle
for dying with the sun

Standing On The Stairs

parasites1Standing On The Stairs is a Leonard Cohen poem published in Parasites Of Heaven (1966). Anjani, in an interview in Jan 2013,1 had this to say about Standing On The Stairs:2

Leonard wrote the lyrics of that album [Blue Alert] and I wrote the music. It was a very collaborative album because he had a clear idea of what led me to make that record. That’s why he caught some songs right away, although others took many takes to do them well. When it was perfect we both felt in our bones. One of the songs that didn’t go on that record will be on the new one. It is entitled ‘Standing on the stairs’ and it is a song that has traveled extensively. Born as a country-inspired song, it took on a tinge of folk and eventually I discarded it altogether. Two years later I met Jerry Marotta, the producer of this album, and it was one of the first songs we recorded. During the time I was recording, Leonard was on the road and I had to navigate alone. I would send him ideas and he would send clues back to me. He was as involved as he could be

Anjani Thomas – Song To Make Me Still & Standing On The Stairs
Feast Of Cohen, St. John’s, Newfoundland: Dec 29, 2013
Video by AnjaniMusic

Note: Originally posted Feb 4, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Anjani Thomas, la cantante que conquistó a Leonard Cohen by Alfonso Cardinal, Efe Eme: Jan 28, 2013 []
  2. English translation by Helen Ketcham []

“It’s in what they call a slum, not a fashionable slum like Greenwich Village.” Leonard Cohen Talks About “Our House In Montreal”

How do you live now? What style and mode of luxury do you allow yourself?

It would be hard to describe our house1 in Montréal without seeming that I was being pretentious, on the side of modesty. We live in an extremely small house… [The neighborhood] is one I always liked. It’s in the East End of town, on a Portuguese working class street. Our house is about the size of this room, I would say. There are one and a half levels. It’s very crowded, and I’ve just given my studio over to the babies. I’ll have to get a little apartment across the street. It’s really a beautiful place, and we have a garden. But you should come up and see it. It’s like living in the country in the middle of the city. It’s in what they call a slum, not a fashionable slum like Greenwich Village. But now there’s another writer on the street… [The neighborhood is] safe, that’s the thing. Like the little child Adam runs on the street and goes into the neighbors’ houses. The doors are open, and the children come into our house. You know, if you can stand that sort of thing, it’s extremely nice… I’ve always lived like that. My own personal style of living has changed very very little. I don’t know what I would do otherwise, what would one do?quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen Looks at Himself by Danny Fields. Soho Weekly News, Vol. 1, #9. Dec 5, 1974.

Resources: Leonard Cohen’s Montreal: The best articles about Leonard Cohen’s Montreal homes and haunts as well as videos and a list of pertinent landmarks

Credit Due Department: This outstanding interview was discovered and contributed by Jugurtha Harchaoui. Photo taken by and posted with the permission of Lilian Graziani.

  1. “Our” refers to Leonard and Suzanne Elrod along with their children, Adam & Lorca []

Webb Sisters Still Sublime On Tour With Tom Petty

Charley and Hattie Webb, backup singers for the 2008-2015 Leonard Cohen tours, are now part of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.

Also see


Leonard Cohen: “[The Future] evokes a scene of the end of things”

‘There’ll be the breaking of the Western code, I mean your private life will suddenly explode.’ That is the whole investment in private space that the West has painfully established over the centuries. That is specifically what is going to collapse. ‘There will be phantoms, there’ll be fires on the road’ – a return to suspicion, superstition, return to the tribal paranoia and the white man dancing. It evokes a scene of the end of things but with certain variations.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From TV Interview by Barbara Gowdy. Broadcast Nov 19, 1992 on TVOntario and published in One on One: The Imprint Interviews, edited by Leanna Crouch (1994).