Leonard Cohen On His Influences: King James Bible, Shakespeare, National Geographic, …

Interviewer: Are there other poets that you admire or have influenced you?

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There’s so much excellent work. Every time I turn on the radio, I hear something good. Every time I pick up a magazine, I read some writing that is distinguished. My pace and viewpoint is being influenced continually by things I come across.

You recapitulate the whole movement of your own culture. Occasionally we are touched by certain elaborate language, like the language we associate with the Elizabethan period, with the King James translation of The Bible, or Shakespeare. In certain moments you are influenced by very simple things. The instructions on a cereal package have a magnificent clarity. You’re touched by the writing in National Geographic — it represents a certain kind of accomplishment.

Occasionally you move into another phase where you are touched by the writing of demented people or mental patients. I get a lot of letters from those kinds of writers. You begin to see it as the most accurate kind of reflection of your own reality, the landscape you’re operating on. There are many kinds of expression that I’m sensitive to.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen in 1988 interview with Mr. Bonzai

Leonard Cohen Reading List

The book referenced by Leonard Cohen, I Am That is a compilation of talks on Shiva Advaita (Nondualism) philosophy by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a Hindu spiritual teacher who lived in Mumbai. I Am That is the latest entry to the Leonard Cohen Reading List, a compilation of books commended by the Canadian singer-songwriter.

Originally posted May 6, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

One Reply to “Leonard Cohen On His Influences: King James Bible, Shakespeare, National Geographic, …”

  1. Charlotte Fox

    I, personally, an old (I’m 81) English lit major (ugh – why did I do it? because I liked to read), who is not begeistert by Shakespeare. I think a marvelous person who writes today is Allegra Goodman. Try her “Intuition” – it’s a gorgeous piece of work: the plot and its details; the characters, ALL of them so finely drawn; the obvious research required; and finally, the very beautiful writing – and from one so very young. (NO slur meant on you, Old Guy; I’m your Contemporary, after all!) But she could never influence me, because I’m not the creator Lennybaby is. Let’s have more songs (or better still – poems) influenced by anyone or no one. It’s what YOU do because you can do it so well, so memorably, so Cohen-like. I LOVE your work, and I know many many others do, too, but I”m the one who’s writing this now.