Leonard Cohen & Irving Layton Discuss The Decline In Their Sexual Interests

I had a lovely moment with Irving [Layton] recently. We were having a smoke and he said, ‘Leonard, have you noticed that you have declined in your sexual interests?’ He’s 89. So I said, ‘I have, Irving.’ He said, ‘I’m relieved to hear that.’ I said, ‘So I take it, Irving, that you also have observed some decline in your own sexual interests.’ He said, ‘Yes, Leonard, I have.’ I said, ‘When did you first begin to notice this decline in your sexual interests?’ He said, ‘Oh, about the age of 16 or 17.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Exile on Main Street by Brett Grainger (Elm Street: Nov 2001)

Cars Of Leonard Cohen: Poets In Cars Getting Lost

is a series of posts about actual automobiles owned by or associated with Leonard Cohen, metaphorical cars he employed in his songs, and his thoughts about cars. All posts in this series are collected at as they go online.

Irving Layton & Leonard Cohen Drive To Toronto

[Irving] Layton frequently brought Cohen along on reading or promotional tours [in the 1950s]. On one of their frequent car trips to Toronto, they became so engrossed in talking about poetry that they didn’t notice they were running out of gas. Fortunately, they were not far from a farmhouse, where they found help. Several years later they were again driving to Toronto and again ran out of gas. Uncannily, it was in front of the same farmhouse. They sheepishly told their story to the woman in the farmhouse who remembered them from years past. She summed up the entire episode with one word: “Poets!”

Excerpted from Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel

Photo: Irving Layton & Leonard Cohen – Montreal

“I could never locate that appetite for posterity within myself” Leonard Cohen

A poet, one of my closest friends, Irving Layton, probably the best Canadian poet and one of our best North American poets, he was very concerned with his legacy. He was very concerned with his immortality and what would become of his work. I loved the man, so I listened attentively and also with a sense of curiosity. I could never locate that appetite for posterity within myself or think what it means anyhow.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen reborn in the U.S.A. by Geoff Boucher at Pop & Hiss, the L.A. Times music blog: February 27, 2009. Photo taken at the July 31, 2009 Leonard Cohen concert in León by Indiana Caba. Originally posted November 11, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Invokes Irving Layton’s Dictum: “Whatever else, poetry is freedom”


Q: What is your opinion on the proposition that ‘the visions of poets may teach those who do not want to know it that there is more in shadow than in light?’

I don’t think the poet has a mission. I think that activity more appropriately applies to the priest, the teacher, the politician, and the warrior. As my friend Layton wrote: ‘Whatever else, poetry is freedom.’ It seems a very aggressive proposition to teach someone something they don’t want to learn.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From a 2001 online chat. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Roland Godefroy (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Originally posted March 20, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen shares Irving Layton’s advice: “Leonard, are you sure you’re doing the wrong thing?”

I’m reminded of the advice my old friend Irving Layton, who has passed away now but probably is the greatest Canadian poet that we’ve ever produced, and a very close friend. I would confide in him, and after I’d told him what I planned to do and what my deepest aspirations were, he’d always say to me, ‘Leonard, are you sure you’re doing the wrong thing?’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

The Wisdom Of Leonard Cohen by Kevin Perry. GQ: Jan 19, 2012. Note: Originally posted Aug 14, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

In 1981, “Montreal’s most popular celebrity” is Irving Layton & Leonard Cohen is “a man not frequently given to dressing up”

Layton Draws S.R.O. Crowd
By Thomas Schnurmacher
The Montreal Gazette – Nov 11, 1981

Indeed, today’s readers can be excused for being flummoxed by the notions that (1) a city’s most popular celebrity, as proclaimed in a newspaper entertainment column, would be a poet – in this case Irving Layton and (2) Leonard Cohen, who informed biographer Sylvie Simmons that he was “born in a suit,” was once known as “a man not frequently given to dressing up.” That he was wearing pinstripe pants and a navy blue trenchcoat (no, it wasn’t the famous blue raincoat – it had disappeared by 1981) was unusual enough to be newsworthy.

The part about Layton saying “My best friend, the poet Leonard Cohen who is a genius” — that was pretty common knowledge.

Note: Originally posted November 14, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Irving Layton: “Do you know what the problem with Leonard Cohen is?”

Irving Layton asked and answered this question at a Nov 1995 dinner party held by a McGill University English professor for a few of his graduate students at which Layton was “the main attraction.” According to the account in Balanced on Wooden Stilts and Dancing: What Irving Layton Taught Me about Leonard Cohen by Kevin Flynn (Essays on Canadian Writing; Winter 1999, Issue 69), the tone of the evening had been set by the news that Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated after a peace rally earlier that day. As the evening progressed, Layton became more animated as he told stories about rescuing a drunken Dylan Thomas from a bar and playing a handball match with Louis Dudek “to determine who was the greater poet.” Finally the discussion turned to Leonard Cohen with the students asking Layton’s opinion about his poetry and his decision to turn to music. Then, Flynn reports

It was at this point that Layton asked us his question: “Do you know what the problem with Leonard Cohen is?” Silence. Seven people hanging on every word waiting for the other shoe to drop. It did.

“Leonard Cohen is a narcissist who hates himself.” He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t have to. On a day bled dry of joy by the death of Rabin, Irving Layton grabbed hold of the night and poured life into it as no one else could. .

And there is a followup. The following excerpt is from Exile on Main Street by Brett Grainger (Elm Street: Nov 2001)

I seize the moment to bring up an observation attributed to Irving Layton, his longtime avuncular drinking buddy. Once at a dinner party in Montreal, I say, Layton asked, “Do you know what the problem with Leonard Cohen is?” His answer? “Leonard Cohen is a narcissist who hates himself.” Cohen laughs at the bon mot. “That’s good,” he says. “But I think Irving may have been talking about himself there.”