These lines are the first stanza of a poem originally published in The Spice-Box of Earth by Leonard Cohen; they also appear in Cohen’s novel, The Favourite Game, as poetry written by Breavman to his lover Shell. The entire poem can be found at LeonardCohenFiles. Originally posted Sept 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Stina Lundberg: But you tried to kill the ladies’ man in the ’70s already. “Death of a Ladies’ Man.”
Leonard Cohen: Well, women took care of that.
Stina Lundberg: How do you mean?
Leonard Cohen (chuckles) I didn’t try to kill anyone. I felt I got creamed, in a certain way. But everybody has that feeling of the disaster of the heart, because nobody masters the heart, nobody’s a real ladies’ man, or a love gangster, nobody really gets a handle on that, your heart just cooks like shish kebab in your breast, sizzling and crackling, and too hot for the body… so those descriptions of course are easy and a kind of joke, a kind of simple description, but I haven’t really met… I’ve known some men who have real reputations as ladies’ men and who are real ladykillers, and they don’t have a handle on it either. I don’t think anybody feels very confident in that realm, whatever level you’re operating.
Stina Lundberg: So how did you feel?
LC: Well the reputation was completely undeserved, for one thing. I don’t think my concerns about women and about sex were any deeper or more elaborate than any other guy that I met. That seemed to be the content of most people’s – you know, women are the content of men, men are the content of women, so everybody’s involved in this enterprise with everything they’ve got, and most hanging on by the skin of their teeth…as I say, nobody masters the situation, especially if it really touches the heart, then one is in a condition of anxiety most of the time. And even the great ladies’ men, and I’ve met some real ones – I’m not in their league. The sense of anxiety about the conquest is still very much there. Because in any case, the woman chooses.
Stina Lundberg: How?
Leonard Cohen: I think the woman – the woman chooses. It’s been told to me that the woman chooses, and she decides within seconds of meeting the man whether or not she’s going to – give herself to him. In any case I think – in most cases the woman is running the show in these matters, and I’m happy to let them have it.
From Stina Lundberg’s Interview with Leonard Cohen in Paris, 2001
Note: Originally posted Mar 25, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
For some years Cohen has been saddled, poor fellow, with a reputation as a compulsive womaniser (putting out an album called ‘Death of a Ladies’ Man’ didn’t really help). Much has been made of his current affair with the Hollywood actress Rebecca de Mornay, who played the billhook-wielding nanny in ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.’ I commented that he never seemed to lose a sense of wonder at the prospect of the undraped female form. Was it because he is an incorrigible old rogue, or something more elevated?
But that’s very elevated. What Yeats said about ‘a foolish passion in an old man,’ that’s not a bad calling. To stay alive in the heart and the spine and the genitals, to be sensitive to these delicious movements, is not a bad way to go. To me, the sight of a naked woman in statuary – or not naked at all – or the movement of one’s sister or daughters, well, I’m sorry, but I haven’t been able to extricate myself from this human merry-go-round.
From Melancholy Baby by John Walsh. The Independent Magazine: May 8, 1993. Image is a screen capture from a 1993 Helsinki interview. Originally posted Jan 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
My advice is highly valued. For instance, don’t piss on a large pine cone. It may not be a pine cone. If you are not clear about which spiders are poisonous, kill them all. The daddy long legs is not a true spider, it actually belongs to the Seratonio crime family. Although insects value their lives, and even though their relentless industry is an example for all of us, they rarely have a thought about death, and when they do it is not accompanied by strong emotions, as it is with you and me. They hardly discriminate between life and death. In this sense they are much like mystics, and like mystics, many are poisonous. It would be difficult to make love to an insect, especially if you are well endowed. As for my own experience, not one single insect has ever complained. If you are not sure which mystics are poisonous, it is best to kill the one you come across with a blow to the head using a hammer, or a show, or a large old vegetable, such as a petrified beet.
Excerpted from The Luckiest Man In The World (Mt Baldy, 1997) – Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen.
Interviewer: Perhaps your most interesting lines come from a poem in The Energy of Slaves, where you write, “My own music is not merely naked, it is open-legged, it is like a cunt, and like a cunt, must needs be houseproud.” Now, that’s quite a line, Len.
Leonard Cohen: “Well people should have a kind of nervous reaction to that word. It is one of the sacred words and it deserves to be whispered. I’m glad you whispered it when you said it.”
Interviewer: Could you just as easily have said that your work was like a prick?
Leonard Cohen: “Not myself, no. I guess a woman could have said that (laughs). I’m starting to remember the line now. It takes a while for it to return. I guess, at the time I wrote that (around 1969), I felt in a grieved state where I somehow felt that everything I was coming across in writing and everything around me was false. I was hungry for a kind of expression that was a lot more raw than what I was getting. I wanted to read something that was on the front-line, that comes from real, undiluted experience and I wasn’t defending anything. Now that word belongs to the woman and to her nakedness and that is still the prerogative of the woman to uncover and that power is still not diminished.”
From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview).
Note: The poem referenced is This Is the Only Poem from The Energy of Slaves. Those lines were removed in the Stranger Music version (and the name of the poem is changed to The Only Poem).
Believe me, what you want is someone to have dinner with… sleep with from time to time, telephone every day or write. It’s what you set up that is defeating. Make it very modest. And give yourself permission to make a few mistakes. You know, blow it a bit. Have a few drinks and fall into bed with somebody. It doesn’t have to be the final thing.
From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007). Photo of Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas in Montreal 2005 taken by Kim Solez.