Cohen is the poet who wrote, in “The News You Really Hate,” “You fucking whore, I thought you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful” and later transformed and compressed the sentiment into the line “But you don’t really care for music, do you?” — a great dramatic gesture and a stunning hilarious rhyme (one of hundreds in Cohen’s work) to “Hallelujah,” his remarkable mid-rash on epic agonies of Samson and David. The sacred and the profane, the holy and the broken, the personal and the universal comingle in Cohen’s poetry as he struggles, baffled, toward the light. Between the “Nameless and the Name” (“Love Itself”) nothing can be unified before it is broken, nothing created or granted “where death is forgotten, and the new thing grin” (“All My Life”).
From Robert Faggen’s foreword to Poems and Songs (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets edition) by Leonard Cohen.
The News You Really Hate
“The News You Really Hate,” from which the soundbite, “You fucking whore, I thought you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful” is taken, is a prose piece by Leonard Cohen first published in Death of a Lady’s Man, a 1978 volume of poems and also found in the 1994 volume, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs. While Robert Faggen uses the selected passage to good effect in illustrating his thesis that Cohen “eroded an artificial boundary between poetry and song,” there is the risk that the savage, painful qualities of the original lines will be implicitly dismissed as no more than a rough prototype of that final elegant, sly, sarcastic rhetorical question, “But you don’t really care for music, do you?” One forgets that this excerpt from Faggen’s foreword to Cohen’s Poems and Songs itself employs only an excerpt from”The News You Really Hate,” which deserves to be read in its entirety:
You fucking whore, I thought that you were really interested in music. I thought your heart was somewhat sorrowful. I might have gone with you under the desk and eaten a soft-boiled egg. I’m going to tell my baby brother not to do what I have done. I’m going to tune you until the string breaks. The Communists do not know how evil you really are.
We are different from you. That’s the news you really hate. That’s the news to ring the bells and start the fires while your boyfriend serves you the hairball lunch. I have been admitted through the stained-glass shadows where your stench is unwelcome. How dare you pay us any attention? I’m going to eat now. I have declared war on you forever and ever. Disguised as a hat I will rip off your eyebrows. I am going to be here in the sun for a long time. The fragrance comes up again. It does not reach you. It does not invite you to close your eyes in the storm. The trumpets cry up inside me and my king is home. I am judged again with mercy.
Originally posted Oct 21, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric