Leonard Cohen on Irving Layton’s notion that culture is “just nail polish on the claws”

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My friend [Irving] Layton described it as nail polish. Our culture, our civilization, all this beautiful stuff from Mozart to Bukowski, as exalted or as funky as it gets, it’s just nail polish on the claws and the nail polish has begun to crack and flake and the claws are showing through. And that’s what we’re living with — a world in which the claws have been exposed. And it’s only been a tiny brief moment when they were covered with nail polish and now the nail polish is coming off.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight, WFUV-FM: June 13, 1993

DrHGuy Note: Irving Layton, in fact,. published a volume 62 poems entitled “Nail Polish” (Toronto, Ontario. McClelland and Stewart 1971). A succinct, capable review of the book by Elizabeth Waterston can be found at Canadian Literature: New-Found Eyes.

np-ilNote: Originally posted June 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Irving Layton on Leonard Cohen: “A Genuine Poet” (and on Reviewers: “A Dishonest Pack … Ignorant Trash”)

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From An Asexual Interview With Irving Layton by John Thompson (The Gateway, November 24, 1965). For those interested in Irving Layton’s work, the entire interview is a treat. It can be read at Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta Libraries)

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Irving Layton, Norman Mailer, & Leonard Cohen Meet In Cohen’s “Dear Mailer”

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The “Dear Mailer” Series

“Dear Mailer” is a short poem by Leonard Cohen published in The Energy Of Slaves (1972)  that has provoked some interesting responses.  This brief series of “Dear Mailer” – Leonard Cohen posts lays out these thoughts for consideration. Today’s offering is a scholarly exploration of links between poems by Leonard Cohen and his friend, Irving Layton, which intersect with Norman Mailer as the nexus.

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Video: Leonard Cohen Performs So Long Marianne & Talks About Money, Music, Motivation In 1979

Leonard Cohen Sings So Long Marianne; Irving Layton Reads Death Of A Lady’s Man; Marianne Is Haunting

This clip from Harry Rasky’s “The Song Of Leonard Cohen”1 opens with Cohen’s friend, Irving Layton, reading the younger poet’s “Death Of A Lady’s Man”2 and then segues into a particularly wrenching performance of “So Long Marianne” with many photos of Leonard Cohen and Marianne interspersed throughout the song. Finally, Leonard Cohen responds to a query about the motivation for his music, speaking ruefully about exchanging his beatific life in Hydra for “dark hotel rooms” because “the song seized me and the appetite for reaching many people seized me.”

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Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne With Poem 1979
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Note: Originally posted May 11, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. “The Song Of Leonard Cohen” was produced in 1980. The performances shown here took  place during the 1979 Field Commander Cohen Tour that was the subject matter of Rasky’s film. []
  2. Death Of A Lady’s Man by Leonard Cohen

    The man she wanted all her life
    was hanging by a thread.
    “I never knew how much
    I wanted you,” she said.
    His muscles they were numbered
    and his style was obsolete.
    “O baby, I have come too late.”
    She knelt beside his feet.

    “I’ll never see a face like yours
    in years of men to come,
    I’ll never see such arms again
    in wrestling or in love.”
    And all his virtues burning
    in the smoky holocaust,
    she took unto herself
    most everything her lover lost.

    Now the master of this landscape
    he was standing at the view
    with a sparrow of St. Francis
    that he was preaching to.
    She beckoned to the sentry
    of his high religious mood.
    She said, “I’ll make a space between my legs,
    I’ll teach you solitude.”

    He offered her an orgy
    in a many-mirrored room;
    he promised her protection
    for the issue of her womb.
    She moved her body hard
    against a sharpened metal spoon,
    she stopped the bloody rituals
    of passage to the moon.

    She took his much-admired
    oriental frame of mind,
    and the heart-of-darkness alibi
    his money hides behind.
    She took his blonde Madonna
    And his monastery wine.
    “This mental space is occupied
    and everything is mine.”

    He tried to make a final stand
    beside the railway track.
    She said, “The art of longing is over
    and it’s never coming back.”
    She took his tavern parliament,
    his cap, his cocky dance;
    she mocked his female fashions
    and his working-class moustache.

    The last time I saw him
    he was trying hard to get
    a woman’s education
    but he’s not a woman yet.
    And the last time that I saw her
    she was living with a boy
    who gives her soul an empty room
    and gives her body joy.

    So the great affair is over
    but whoever would have guessed
    it would leave us all so vacant
    and so deeply unimpressed.
    It’s like our visit to the moon
    or to that other star:
    I guess you go for nothing
    if you really want to go that far. []