“Sometimes I take a book of one of my favorite poets… You sigh with satisfaction knowing you’re with someone that you love. You relax in the company of that soul. These relationships are wonderful, very nourishing.” Leonard Cohen

Interviewer: Did these discoveries [e.g., Lorca & Yeats] immediately give you the desire to write?

Leonard Cohen: I wanted to respond to these poems. Every poem that touches you is like a call that needs a response. One wants to respond with one’s own story. Novels tend to make me silent. You live with a novel for awhile, you become, yourself, part of the novel. I never felt the need to respond to novels. But in poems, this distillation of language coincided with something in my own nature, in my soul: this kind of speed and agility.

Interviewer: Did you need to keep this passion to yourself or did you share it with others?

Leonard Cohen: Deep friendships are born on mutual interest. But the true relation between yourself and that which you love will always be private. Sometimes I take a book of one of my favorite poets… You sigh with satisfaction knowing you’re with someone that you love. You relax in the company of that soul. These relationships are wonderful, very nourishing.

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Photo from Montreal Star files. Photographer unknown. Library and Archives Canada.

“I lost my way” Leonard Cohen Talks About Failing To Connect (1988)

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I thought I was one of those men that sang about his predicament, and that somehow everybody would connect with it. But I lost my way and began involving myself with speculations that I knew deep down were not really public concerns. The world was no longer attracting me. It wasn’t very entertaining. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From “Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough” By Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988. Originally posted June 27, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Performing is] a drag in the sense that I’m nervous and no one knowingly goes to his own humiliation, and I always feel that’s a real possibility.” Leonard Cohen

From “Complexities And Mr. Cohen” by Billy Walker (Sounds, March 4, 1972). Found at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo by Lars Sandblom. Originally posted Dec 9, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

“I can hardly carry a tune but I think it’s a true voice in the sense that it’s not a lie. It presents the singer and the story he’s telling.” Leonard Cohen

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I think my sound has always been a little different to whatever else has been happening, though. Out of time or something… Let’s just say I hear a different drum. Like that poem I wrote that went, ‘When it comes to lamentations, I prefer Aretha Franklin to Leonard Cohen, let us say he hears a different drum.’ I never thought I had a voice in the sense of a singer’s voice. I can hardly carry a tune but I think it’s a true voice in the sense that it’s not a lie. It presents the singer and the story he’s telling.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview). Photo by Pete Purnell.

“That confession to yourself that you cannot innovate, but you might be able to affirm that which is worthwhile affirming, is a wonderful notion and the beginning of a kind of wisdom.” Leonard Cohen

In closing, Cohen responds to the reading of a line from his 1978 book, Death of a Lady’s Man: “Greater is he that answers Amen than he that says the blessing,” explaining his sentiments:

“That’s a quotation from…the section of the Talmud called Ethics of the Father. It’s quite a wise and profound saying, and it has many resonances. That confession to yourself that you cannot innovate, but you might be able to affirm that which is worthwhile affirming, is a wonderful notion and the beginning of a kind of wisdom.”

And as to whether, in his music, he is innovating or affirming he takes a long pause.

I wonder if he’s deciding whether or not I deserve the real answer.

“If the affirmation is passionate and sincere, then it has the refreshment of innovation.”

From Leonard Cohen: Pondering His Past and ‘The Future’ by Scott Crawford (Intermission, Stanford Daily: April 8, 1993). Photo by Gerrit Terstiege Originally posted 2014/10/09 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I shouldn’t be in Canada at all. Winter is all wrong for me. I belong beside the Mediterranean. My ancestors made a terrible mistake.” From Book Jacket Of The Spice-Box of Earth By Leonard Cohen

The full dust jacket blurb from The Spice-Box of Earth (1961) follows:

Leonard Cohen, 27, McGill graduate, gives his address as Montreal, but as this book was going to press he was enroute to Cuba. He spent last year on the shores of the Aegean Sea, writing as a result of that experience:

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I shouldn’t be in Canada at all. Winter is all wrong for me. I belong beside the Mediterranean. My ancestors made a terrible mistake. But I have to keep coming back to Montreal to renew my neurotic affiliations. Greece has the true philosophic climate—you cannot be dishonest in that light. But it’s only in Montreal that you can get beat up for wearing a beard. I love Montreal. I hate the speculators who are tearing down my favourite streets and erecting those prisons built in the habit of boredom and gold.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

While he prefers swimming in the Aegean, Leonard Cohen admits a fondness for camping in Northern Quebec. He is currently engaged in writing a novel.

“I keep scratching away and things emerge” Leonard Cohen On Writing Poems Vs Songs Vs Novels

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He [Leonard Cohen] has published three collections of poetry and two novels, The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers. He continues to write poetry, but it takes a back seat to his music.

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I keep scratching away and things emerge. It’s a swifter, more impressionistic kind of work. The song is based on the stanza and uses a very intricate verse form. Whereas writing so-called poetry when you don’t have to come to the end of the line is a freer kind of activity. The regimen these songs demand is very much like the novel — they demand a daily application. There’s no way you can do this on the run. I wish there were. But, chez moi, I’ve got to get down to it every day.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Rebirth of a Ladies’ Man By Brendan Kelly. The Financial Post: December 12, 1992. Image from back cover of Flowers for Hitler by Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Cape (UK): 1973. Photo by Sophie Baker.