Phil Tetrault & Leonard Cohen – Friends And Poets, From "This Beggar’s Description"

The Phil Tetrault Documentary

“Picnic in the Park with Leonard Cohen” features Phil Tetrault and Leonard Cohen drinking and talking on a park bench in Montreal.

Some background information is helpful for first time viewers. This clip is an excerpt from “This Beggar’s Description,” a 2005 documentary about Phil Tetrault directed by his brother, Pierre Tetrault, and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The film, which won the 2006 C.B.C. Newsworld Award for Best Documentary in the Independent Film and Video Festival, includes six of Cohen’s songs (Suzanne, If It Be Your Will, Guests, Partisan, Who By Fire, Anthem) on the soundtrack (none appear on the clip shown in this post).

the-beggars-description-movie-poster-2005-1020297549A review of the film in the Montreal Gazette described the subject of the documentary:

Even in a city top-heavy with eccentric characters, Philip Tetrault stands out. He is a poet, painter and master of the pan flute. He is a friend to the famous and the infamous. He has lived among the well-heeled and the hobos. He is also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

lapLeonard Cohen and Phil Tetrault

It’s not clear how Tetrault and Cohen met. Phil Tetrault’s daughter, photographer Amanda Tetrault, writes about their relationship:

I’m not sure how he ;Phil Tetrault] met Leonard Cohen but it was years ago in Montreal. Phil would be doing a poetry reading and Leonard would happen by on the street and come in. So they knew each other. He’s been really nice to Phil over the years, given him money. Phil gives him poetry1

Video: Leonard Cohen Reads A Phil Tetrault Poem, Boasts Of Besting Trudeau In Thumb Wrestling, Banters With His Buddy

It is an unanticipated delight to watch these two poets spend time together on a park bench in Montreal. Tetrault drinks beer and eats cheese curls and Cohen guzzles V8 while talking about topics that include an image in Tetrault’s poetry, Tetrault losing his toes to frostbite, Cohen’s suit, Kris Kristofferson’s appeal to women, and, of course, Cohen besting the Prime Minister of Canada in thumb wrestling.

From my perspective, the most striking aspect of this 9 minutes, 30 seconds of video is the unmistakable comfort and affection between these two men. In 25+ years working professionally with patients diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders, I have found this degree of unreserved, unflinching acceptance beyond rare. Even family members, friends of many years, and spouses who genuinely care for men and women with these afflictions become wary of investing more energy in the relationship, embarrassed in the company of others, condescending, and anxiously uneasy in anticipation of potentially bizarre behavior. I make that observation not to disparage anyone but to emphasize the unusual graciousness Leonard Cohen displays, seemingly effortlessly, in this segment.

Picnic in the Park with Leonard Cohen
Video from a2zme 


Phil Tetrault Recites His Poems In Montreal (2006)

Three Poems
Video from lewdite 

Note: Originally posted Mar 20, 2010 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Father dear father by Amanda Tetrault. The Observer: August 21, 2004 []

One Reply to “Phil Tetrault & Leonard Cohen – Friends And Poets, From "This Beggar’s Description"”

  1. June Clower

    Thank you for re-posting this video Allan, I’ve watched it many times since first discovering it and really enjoy being able to see Leonard’s conversation with Phil Tetrault in this informal setting.
    It provides a lovely insight into Leonards’s character – (at least as I perceive it to be, never having actually experienced the delight of meeting him – Sigh…..) His gracious easy warmth, his wry humour, his altruism – what a very lovely man he is. ?