My Mother Asleep: A Poem By Leonard Cohen

My Mother Asleep by Leonard Cohen
From Book Of Longing

remembering my mother
at a theatre in Athens
thirty-five years ago
a revue by Theodorakis
those great songs
she fell asleep
in the chair beside mine
in the open-air theatre
she had arrived that day
from Montreal
and the play started close to midnight
and she slept through
the mandolins
the climbing harmonies
and the great songs
I was young
I hadn’t had my children
I didn’t know how far away
your love could be
I didn’t know how
tired you could get

Note: Originally posted July 7, 2010 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

If There Were No Paintings – A Poem By Leonard Cohen About His Art

Green Chair (2008)

Green Chair by Leonard Cohen (2008)

If There Were No Paintings
By Leonard Cohen

Note: As has often been the case, this poem has been republished in association with a Leonard Cohen art exhibit. For information, see 50 Leonard Cohen Prints & Drawings On Exhibit At Gallery Poulsen In Copenhagen April 10-14, 2015. For other comments by Leonard Cohen about his drawings and graphics, go to Leonard Cohen On His Art

If there were no paintings in the world,
Mine would be very important.

Same with my songs.
Since this is not the case, let us make haste to get in line,
Well towards the back.
Sometimes I would see a woman in a magazine
Humiliated in the technicolour glare.

I would try to establish her
In happier circumstances.
Sometimes a man.
Sometimes living persons sat for me.
May I say to them again:
Thank you for coming to my room.
I also loved the objects on the table
Such as candlesticks and bowls.
From a mirror on my desk
In the very early morning
I copied down
Hundreds of self-portraits.
The Curator has called this exhibition
Leonard Cohen Artworks
I call my work
Acceptable Decorations.

They Eat Roses, Don’t They? Leonard Cohen, Roses, Vegetarians, Poetics, & Abligurition


In the beginning was the tweet.

Well, at least that’s how today’s post, a dandy representative of the continuous clicking Cohen  concatenation category, began.

In making my daily internet rounds in search of Leonard Cohen information, I found this tweet from Twitwo ‏@Dads_Arnie:

My favourite example of abligurition is Leonard Cohen’s “So you’re the kind of vegetarian who only eats roses”

Which led to …

Leonard Cohen’s Poem & Novel

Many Cohen fans will recognize that quotation, “So you’re the kind of vegetarian who only eats roses,” as the first lines of his poem:

So you’re the kind of vegetarian
Who only eats roses
Is that what you meant
with your beautiful losers

The final words of this poem from Parasites of Heaven provide the name for Cohen’s novel, Beautiful Losers.

As for that reference to vegetarians, …

Leonard Cohen – Vegetarian

Update: A more thorough treatment of this issue is now online at Was Leonard Cohen A Vegetarian?

Fewer Cohen followers are likely to know that he himself was a vegetarian for two or three years in the mid-1960s.1

The Vegetarian Reference In Beautiful Losers

Continue Reading →

  1. Who Held A Gun To Leonard Cohen’s Head? by Tim de Lisle (The Guardian, 16 September 2004) []

Philip Glass on being friends & collaborators with Leonard Cohen

Philip_Glass_20.IX_Book_of_Longing900Philip Glass authored an interesting essay, published in the October 3, 2007 edition of The Independent, describing his friendship with Leonard Cohen and the creation of his musical work based on Cohen’s volume of poetry, Book of Longing.

Glass refers to the tasks involved in mounting an opera, his intuitive pairings of instruments and those poems from Book of Longing that fall into the category the composer has labeled “Rhymes and Limericks,” his work with Allen Ginsberg, and the special difficulties of working with the English language.

Those familiar with Leonard Cohen’s poetry or music will not, I suspect, be surprised to learn that “There’s an erotic dimension to the piece, too.”

I’ve excerpted the first paragraph to give a sense of article:

I don’t know how Leonard [Cohen] and I arranged to meet exactly, but nine years ago we planned to spend the afternoon together. The afternoon turned into dinner and it turned into the evening, and we spent the whole time reading a book, which, at that time, was just loose, unpublished pages of poetry. It was, in fact, the Book of Longing. We were in a very typical Los Angeles house with a backyard and a swimming pool, and we just sat on the grass and he read the poems.1

The most striking and poignant passage consists of a few lines near the end in which Glass writes about Cohen’s generosity in a manner that resonates with appreciations by other artists, writers, audience members, and even random individuals who happen to cross the singer’s path:

I have been asked, am I understanding the poems in the way they were intended? It’s funny, in many ways Leonard and I haven’t talked about these things very much. Leonard’s attitude towards what I do was very generous. He trusted me, said: “Just do it.” With the poems I was given a terrific gift. Leonard had already gone through the whole process, he had found the structure, he had found the words. It was like being given flowers and asked to arrange them in a vase, only the flowers were already there.

The article by Philip Glass about his meeting and collaboration with Leonard Cohen is available online at Philip Glass: Leonard Cohen and me

Credit Due Department: Photo of Philip Glass taken by MITO SettembreMusica and used under Creative Commons license. Found at Wikipedia Commons. Photo of the Royal Ontario Museum was also found at Wikipedia Commons.

Note: Originally posted Oct 4, 2007 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. At the risk of seeming a noodge, I must point out that, like Mr. Glass, I have a backyard, a pool, and grass (during several months of the year). In addition, my copy of the Book of Longing is nicely bound. I am also quite flexible about scheduling an afternoon, full day, or even an overnighter for a Leonard Cohen visit and will kick in for meals (I’m thinking carryout from a local Thai restaurant that is pretty nice) and quality snacks (none of those generic chips). Admittedly, I can’t promise that a world class musical production would result, but I could probably work up a couple of better than average blog posts and maybe a bawdy limerick that references the meeting. And, these divertissements would have a much shorter gestational period than Glass required. Dropping in is fine,  but calling ahead would give us a chance to make sure the guest bed has clean sheets. []