“There are some things that are designed to rest on the page and not be spoken” Leonard Cohen On Sexualized Language In His Poems

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What I’d really like to know is why your poetry is so stark, so incredibly blunt – a poem like for instance …

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I like that poem… If it didn’t have the word ‘cunt’ in it I’d probably read it out loud on stage. But I’m not ready to say that word well enough yet. There are some things that are designed to rest on the page and not be spoken…quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Note: The word “cunt” appears in at least five poems by Leonard Cohen written before the date of this interview (all published in The Energy of Slaves):

  • This Is the Only Poem
  • I Will Grow Old
  • You Are A Much Finer Person Than I Am
  • Cutting The Hair
  • We Call It Sunlight

Leonard Cohen also discusses the use of “cunt” in his writing at “People should have a kind of nervous reaction to that word. It is one of the sacred words and it deserves to be whispered.” Leonard Cohen On Sexualized Language In His Writing.

Suffering For Fan And Profit – The Return Of Leonard Cohen by Mick Brown. Sounds: July 3, 1976, Accessed 26 April 2014 at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo Credit: Roloff Beny / Library and Archives Canada / PA-196331. Originally posted Apr 26, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

“The only thing that differs in those writers [Celine, Burroughs, Gunter Grass, Sartre] and myself is that I hold out the idea of ecstasy as the solution.” Leonard Cohen 1967

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The only thing that differs in those writers [Celine, Burroughs, Selbe, Gunter Grass, and Sartre] and myself is that I hold out the idea of ecstasy as the solution. If only people get high, they can face the evil part. If a man feels in his heart it’s only going to be a mundane confrontation with feelings, and he has to recite to himself Norman Vincent Peale slogans, ‘Be better, be good,’ he hasn’t had a taste of that madness. He’s never soared, he’s never let go of the silver thread and he doesn’t know what it feels to be like a god. For him, all the stories about holiness and the temple of the body are meaningless.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From After the Wipe-Out, A Renewal” by Sandra Diwa, published in The Ubyssey (the student newspaper of the University of British Columbia), February 3, 1967. The photo is from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, ASC01708. Originally posted August 3, 2016 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“My songs are like documentaries… Some accuse me of being too poetic, but that’s how my imagination works, how I see things. I don’t try to write beautiful phrases.” Leonard Cohen

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My songs are like documentaries or reports. Some accuse me of being too poetic, but that’s how my imagination works, how I see things. I don’t try to write beautiful phrases.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate. Photo by Pete Purnell

“[Sisters Of Mercy] was the first and only time I’ve written a song from beginning to end without a correction. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve written.” Leonard Cohen

I wanted to know what the truth of Sisters Of Mercy was

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I was very lonely. I only had my guitar. And suddenly I found two girls who invited me to spend the night with them. I soon realized that this had nothing to do with sex. We just went to sleep because I was very tired. I woke up during the night and they were asleep. I started writing this song and when they woke up I sang it and I think I made them very happy. I think it was the first and only time I’ve written a song from beginning to end without a correction. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve written. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate. Photo by Pete Purnell

“There are no dirty words – ever” Leonard Cohen 1965

In Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, a 1965 National Film Board of Canada production, a sound engineer tells Leonard, who is preparing to record his poem, A Kite Is A Victim from Spice-Box Of Earth, that “any place you come across a dirty word we have to delete it.”

Leonard’s response: “Yeah, well, there are no dirty words. Ever!”

“The song that is going to survive in this landscape today has got to have a certain kind of power, of strength. You don’t put your philosopher at the head of the army.” Leonard Cohen On The Strategic Position Of I’m Your Man

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What’s great about the best folk and country music is the clarity, the removal of anything extraneous from the point. And listening to I’m Your Man, I hear that in your own writing again, those succinct narrative and musical qualities.

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That’s what I’ve been working on for the last few years. I think The Book of Mercy was the final statement of the mystical, religious being. I don’t have to talk about religion anymore – it’s gone underground. I don’t think popular music is a good place to explore a lot of those ideas. The song that is going to survive in this landscape today has got to have a certain kind of power, of strength. You don’t put your philosopher at the head of the army. This is a time for a very strategic position – to the marketplace, and to the whole psychic landscape. Muscle is indicated, a kind of phalanx. A lot of other things have to be put behind the front line. If your heart has really been threatened with cynicism – one’s own, I’m talking about, not CBS’, [laughter] with the greed, the skepticism, the general devaluation of all spiritual currency that faces us today, a position has to be taken that is appropriate in the face of this real assault.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988.

“Sometimes I feel like my work is like an ice cube… you can put it in a Coke or you can put it in a scotch… it just has… the effect of cooling your drink, which is an urgent effect, to give comfort.” Leonard Cohen

 

In mythology, there’s the idea that the artist has one image, a poem or memory that is so central to their work they can never reveal it. Do you have a fixed or central image that you draw from?

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Now in my case there is no secret. Not only that, but I think that, from a certain point of view, my songs are free from meaning and significance. There’s not a secret that is being concealed, there’s nothing that I am not yielding. It really doesn’t have a meaning any more than a diamond has a meaning. The meaning is that it was cut and polished and it produces light. Sometimes I feel like my work is like an ice cube… you can put it in a Coke or you can put it in a scotch… it just has an effect, it’s hard to say what it’s getting at, I’m not sure it’s getting at anything but an effect, the effect of cooling your drink, which is an urgent effect, to give comfort.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman (Details for Men, January, 1993). Originally posted at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Reveals “The only thing I’ve learned [about songwriting]”

I would like to know if you have any advice on the craft of song writing

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The only thing I’ve learned is that if you stick with it long enough a song will eventually yield but ‘long enough’ is often an alarming duration. I’m speaking personally. Great songs have been written in minutes.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001.