Hear Leonard Cohen Recite Les Vieux – Poem Inspired By Northeastern Lunch

,ythThe recent stories about the discovery of Northwestern Lunch sign in Montreal point out that the diner inspired Leonard Cohen’s poem, Les Vieux, written in 1954 when Cohen was 20 and published in Let Us Compare Mythologies. This seems an auspicious time to feature this poem in text and in Leonard Cohen’s own words.

Coming Attractions:  While Les Vieux has been the only Leonard Cohen poem mentioned in the stories about the sign discovery, it is not the only Leonard Cohen poem to reference Northeastern Lunch. Stay tuned. Update: See Disguises – The Other Leonard Cohen Poem Referencing Northeastern Lunch

Les Vieux
by Leonard Cohen

Northeastern Lunch
with rotting noses and tweed caps,
huddling in thick coats
and mumbling confidential songs
to ancient friends –
the public men of Montreal

Leonard Cohen Recites Les Vieux

Northeastern Lunch Sign, Inspiration For Leonard Cohen’s “Les Vieux,” Will Be Preserved

For the English translation of this article, go to CBC: Northeastern Lunch Sign, Inspiration To Leonard Cohen, Will Be Preserved (English)

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Linda Sturgess, who alerted me to this story

Leonard Cohen Responds To Northeastern Lunch Diner Story

Excerpted from the English translation Northeastern Lunch sign reveals storied past of Montreal wartime diner

Cohen Responds

Leonard Cohen himself reached out to Radio-Canada to share his memories of the Northeastern Lunch. He said he spent time there in his teens.

“It was a restaurant, not exactly flourishing, but definitely functional. It was a good spot. Well-lit,” he wrote in an email.

Leonard Cohen To Provide Part 2 Of Northeastern Lunch Diner Story

The above photo was posted last night in anticipation of Leonard Cohen’s contribution to a story about the impending destruction of the Northeastern Lunch diner, the site that inspired one of his earliest poems. The original installment (in English) can be found at Northeastern Lunch sign reveals storied past of Montreal wartime diner

Update: See Leonard Cohen Responds To Northeastern Lunch Diner Story

Update: Kezban Özcan, Leonard Cohen’s assistant, was good enough to confirm my guess that she was indeed took this shot that went online last night:

Yes, I’m the photographer, took the photo on Saturday (7/11/2015) in my backyard, late afternoon, Los Angeles

For more about Kezban, see Kezban Özcan Talks About What It’s Like To Be Leonard Cohen’s Assistant

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Linda Sturgess, who first alerted me to this story

Our Lady Of The Harbour – The Montreal Church Embedded In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne


“And the sun pours down like honey / On our lady of the harbour”

Sally Hunter writes,

I was sorting though my camera data cards today, as I am accompanying 160 Grade 7’s to Quebec City tomorrow, and wanted to make sure I had lots of memory. I found these pictures taken last year in Montreal. I did two trips last year, one to Quebec City and the other to Montreal and Quebec City. These trips are lots of noise and hustle and bustle. On my last day in Montreal, I had a little bit of time to myself before we once again rallied the troops. I stole away for some peace and quiet to Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, better known to you as the Church where “… the sun pours down like honey, On our lady of the harbour…” The Lady of the Harbour faces the St. Lawrence River, and blesses the men in the boats who travel along the river. I am enclosing a shot of the interior of the Church. It is a most remarkable colour of blue and small ships hang from the ceiling.

The photos are among the best that I’ve seen of  The Lady of the Harbour, especially in their display of detail. (Note, for example, the starry halo over her head.) I hadn’t noticed the angels, one of Cohen’s favorite allusions, that are easily seen around the pedestal in the photo below.


And, until Sally called it to my attention with this superb photo, I was completely unaware of the gorgeous interior of the church.


Cohencentric appreciates not only the quality of these outstanding photos and Sally’s generosity in sharing them but also the courage and resilience demonstrated in her continuing willingness to brave the rigors inherent in accompanying a horde of seventh graders on those field trips.  A prayer or two in Sally’s behalf might not be out of place.

Note: Originally posted May 2, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, the predecessor to Cohencentric.