Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
By Leonard Cohen
Alice Hoffman, a profoundly talented writer whose novels include “Practical Magic,” “The Dovekeepers” and “The Marriage of Opposites,” admires Leonard Cohen’s work. In addition to opening her latest novel, “Faithful,” with a stanza from Anthem, she’s on record as supporting Cohen for the Nobel Prize for literature:
If anyone else is going to win the Nobel Prize for literature, it should be Leonard Cohen. He’s such a great poet and such a beautiful writer. 1
The Flame by Leonard Cohen is divided into sections:
Of these divisions, I find Notebooks the most intriguing because (1) most of the selections are new to me and (2) many of the entries resonate with issues raised in Leonard’s later work.
More information at The Flame By Leonard Cohen.
Top 10 Poker Quotes of All Time by Phil Hellmuth (PokerTube: 01 October 2018)
“Ah you hate to see another tired man / Lay down his hand / Like he was giving up the holy game of poker” is, of course, from The Stranger Song.
In “Dream Brighton” in the Notebooks section of The Flame, Leonard writes about Tom Waits. I’ve extracted this portion of the piece because – well, it’s a perfect description of the music Tom Waits writes and performs:
More information at The Flame By Leonard Cohen.
A passage from an unpublished essay of 1965 clarifies the nature of drug use on the island [Hydra]. Cohen writes:
In this part of the planet men have smoked and cooked hashish for many centuries, and as countless American and European homosexuals can testify, without sacrificing any of the vigourous qualities we would associate with a people so crucial to history, a continuous seminal history including not only the classical and Byzantine periods, but also, and perhaps most important, our own time. We who are here today believe that these lands of the Eastern Mediterranean are still the glistening alembic in which the happiest and purest synthesis of the West and Orient must occur. Islanders brew a tea from the wild narcotic poppies which is served to restless children and rebellious mules….
We smoke the occasional common cigarette into which we have introduced a few crumbs of hashish. We cannot rely on this crude device to secure us the visions and insights we hunger for, but it has its use as an agent of relaxation and receptivity. On the recreational side I might say that erotic and musical experience is enhanced under its influence. My wife would not listen to Bach without it, nor I to the cicadas at sundown. … The lyrics of many bazouki tunes celebrate the aromatic generosity of the leaf as it turns to ash.
From Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel
Leonard Cohen owns the phrase ‘naked body,’ for example; it appears in every one of his songs.1
Somehow, Joni made this seem like a bad thing – go figure.
On the other hand, none of Leonard’s albums offer cover art that feature him unclad as Ms Mitchell is depicted on the inside cover of her 1972 album, For The Roses (shown atop this post). Again, go figure.
Tom Robbins, writing liner notes for the Tower of Song tribute album, addressed the Leonard Cohen’s employment of “naked” from a different perspective:
It is a voice raked by the claws of Cupid, a voice rubbed raw by the philosopher´s stone. A voice marinated in Kirschwasser, sulfur, deer musk and snow; bandaged with sackcloth from a ruined monastery; warmed by the embers left down near the river after the gypsies have gone. It is a penitent´s voice, a rabbinical voice, a crust of unleavened vocal toasts – spread with smoke and subversive wit. He has a voice like a carpet in an old hotel, like a bad itch on the hunchback of love. It is a voice meant for pronouncing the names of women – and cataloging their sometimes hazardous charms. Nobody can say the word “naked” as nakedly as Cohen. He makes us see the markings where the pantyhose have been. [underlining mine]
Back in 2011, these observations by Joni Mitchell and Tom Robbins sparked my investigation of Leonard Cohen’s thoughts on nakedness and his employment of “naked” and its equivalents in his songs, poems, art, and novels. For example, “I love to see you naked” is, of course, a phrase from Take This Longing by Leonard Cohen. But, there is much more to follow. These posts will be published forthwith (fifthwith at the latest) on Cohencentric. Stay tuned.
Note: These posts will be collected at Leonard Cohen On Nakedness
- This statement is quoted in Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell – Just One Of Those Things;” the original source is Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period by Michelle Mercer. Free Press; 1st Edition, April 7, 2009 [↩]