Photos: Leonard Cohen & Friends On Picnic c. 1970 + Leonard Cohen’s Inscription-Poem “For Sharon”

Here’s how this went down. I came across an AbeBooks ad for The Favourite Game, which I’ve excerpted here (bolding mine):

Secker & Warburg. 1963. 8vo. Original cloth and dustwrapper; pp. 222; some spotting to top edge, bump to bottom edge, rubbed corners, wrapper is age-toned with some scuffing, ottherwise very good. Provenance: with original poem in Cohen’s handwriting to ffep, with ownership inscription of Sharon Brown. The three-verse is inscribed “For Sharon” and shares a tone of romantic regret with famous lyrics such as “Bird on a wire”: “leaving me a leaf of hair to plant in the corner of my sleep/and a car ride through the highways ruins taking an old fresh field with me, like a scrap of paper caught on the aerial/ and delivering me to where I began, waiting for the harvest with fish nets and spider webs and empty pockets white and proud as sails.” First edition of Cohen’s first novel. Originally twice the length and entitled Beauty at Close Quarters, the book was rejected by Cohen’s Canadian publishers and was first published in London in its present form four years after he wrote it. sold with The Spice-Box of Earth. Toronto/Montreal: McClelland and Stewart,1961. 8vo. Stiff paper wraps; pp. 88; some scuffing to extremities, a few creases to covers, ink spot to top edges, binding very tight, very good. Provenance: ffep.1 signed and inscribed by Cohen “To Sharon”, and with ownership signature of Sharon Brown. First edition. Cohen’s second book of poetry was greeted enthusiastically, with the critic Robert Weaver proclaiming him ‘probably the best young poet in English Canada right now’. also with Four different photographic images, plus an image of 10 negatives: some multiples, printed in different exposures and crops, for a total of 11 sheets. These show Cohen, playing guitar, singing, mid-conversation, and with friends. These photos are apparently unpublished and are very informal and relaxed. They appear to be from a slightly later period than the books, circa 1970. Nothing is known about Sharon Brown, but it is natural to conjecture that this collection is the memento mori of an affair with the notoriously philandering poet and songwriter. Perhaps one of the women in the photographs is Sharon herself. Cohen left a long string of broken hearts behind him, and the poem in The Favourite Game certainly has the air of a thinly veiled goodbye. He was also famously tight-lipped about the many women in his life. As he once said: “I never discuss my mistresses or my tailors.”.

The name “Sharon Brown” seemed somehow familiar. Checking my archives, I came across a post I published Aug 3, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com (and which I just today put online at Cohencentric: Leonard Cohen – Hero To Those Under 25 In 1968) that featured “Cohen Becomes Hero” by Sharon Brown, from the January 14, 1968 Chevron (the official newspaper published by the Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo)..

Now, I have not discovered hard evidence that the Sharon Brown who wrote that article about Leonard Cohen is the same Sharon Brown who owned this book and to whom “For Sharon” is addressed. I do, however, find it believable that an adoring University of Waterloo undergrad so enamored of Leonard Cohen that she describes him as “he’s beautiful, for one thing, and he projects himself in a very intimate way” somehow connected with her “hero’ and that he reciprocated with those notes found in her copy of The Favourite Game.

I sent my speculations about Sharon Brown to AbeBooks and soon received a response from Chris Saunders of Henry Sotheran Ltd., who sent me the photos described and permission to post them along with the “For Sharon” inscription by Leonard Cohen.

Photo Credit: Henry Sotheran Ltd.

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  1. fftp is the abbreviation for Front Free EndPaper. Generally, it is the first page of a book and is part of a single sheet that also spans across the inside of the front board (called the front pastedown) via a fold along the gutter with the purpose of connecting the boards to the stitched textblock []

5 Replies to “Photos: Leonard Cohen & Friends On Picnic c. 1970 + Leonard Cohen’s Inscription-Poem “For Sharon””

  1. Bev

    Thank you Allan, you are a super-sleuth!
    I’ve never seen these photos or that verse before. So nice to of you to post them!