How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns – Interview With Leonard Cohen Presented By John McKenna. RTE Ireland, May 9 & 12, 1988. Photo by Johann Agust Hansen. Originally posted Nov 29, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Both Leonard and I were more or less typical products of the Jewish Diaspora. The streets of Montreal, where we were both born, were not quite paved with gold, but, for newcomers, the city was a North American destination of choice. Part of the explanation was its volatile blend of French and Scottish settlers, a chemistry that helped to shape Canada’s most culturally diverse, creative and exciting community. Sadly, it was also Canada’s most belligerent and adversarial community. Montreal had always been deeply conflicted at multiple levels of race and ethnicity, with consequences for those whose antecedents had escaped the singular ordeals of European life. That something of that particular history awaited our immigrant families in the “bright and shining new world” was inconceivable to them. And yet it did.
Westmount’s Jews were a close-knit and socially prominent minority in a wealthy English Protestant neighbourhood. The latter was itself a minority, albeit a powerful one, in a city and province overwhelmingly Catholic French: themselves a minority in Canada. “Everybody felt like some kind of outsider”, Leonard lamented. “Everybody felt like they belonged to something important. It was a romantic, conspiratorial, mental environment, a place of blood, soil, and destiny.”
So long, Montreal: Leonard Cohen’s classmate on McGill and the musician by Kenneth Asch (Times Higher Education: November 30, 2017) is a well written discussion of the cultural and ethnic environment of Leonard Cohen’s Montreal (and Quebec) and his reaction to it. The full article is available at the link.
Photo by Paul Lowry – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia Commons
A Manual For Living With Defeat
Lessons From Leonard Cohen – A Manual For Living With Defeat is a collection of Leonard Cohen’s observations that offer insight into living in this imperfect world. (For information about how this series differs from other collections of so-called lessons from Leonard Cohen, see Lessons From Leonard Cohen – Introduction.)
Lesson #6: “Our duty is to transcend sorrow”
I don’t think you can regard whatever condition you are in as an experiment. When you’re in it, you are in it and our duty is to transcend sorrow. Nobody wants to stick around in these places. If you’ve got ways of getting out of them, I think it’s your responsibility to do so. As far as joy is concerned, the more the better. At the moment? I have a few laughs.1
I feel that, more and more, I need to be strong and cheerful, to greet the daily events, the daily abrasions that seem to greet me.2
More Lessons From Leonard Cohen
All posts in this series can be found at
“Leonard Cohen Experience” Videos 1-4: 1988 Interview & Performances
These videos feature segments from an August 1988 Leonard Cohen interview with Mitch Corber, which was to be published in Downtown Magazine (I have been unable to discover if the piece was actually published although the New York Library did purchase the audio tape for their collection), interspersed with songs by Leonard Cohen performed by himself and others. Many of the performances are from the 1988 Austin City Limits show.
Leonard Cohen Experience 1
Interview Content: Comparison of songs and poems; Leonard Cohen’s personal religious perspective; the temptation of lying for love as a theme, King David as a poet and a figure; Buckskin Boys; personal moods; sense of mission; connections between singing and writing careers; style of living; women as companions of the heart.
Songs: Chelsea Hotel #2, Seems So Long Ago Nancy, Lover, Lover, Lover, The Future, Sisters Of Mercy, others.
Leonard Cohen Experience 2
Continue Reading →
Explore Leonard Cohen’s deep ties to his hometown through photos, videos, and text descriptions at Montreal’s Leonard Cohen comes home by Elysha Enos (CBC: 29 November 2017)
I consider myself as someone whose face is covered by bees. I’m trying to get them off. That’s the kind of panic that my creative life takes place in.
August 1988 interview with Mitch Corber