“There’s been… a number of extremely boring artistic creations dealing with saving the forest. That creates a kind of totalitarian situation. You can’t live in those songs.” Leonard Cohen

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You know, nobody wants to destroy all the forests. There’s been a million — well, not a million, but a number of extremely boring artistic creations dealing with saving the forest. That creates a kind of totalitarian situation. You can’t live in those songs. You can’t really make love in those songs, or if you do there’s going to be something that is dangerously absent. If you want to write about the forest, say what I said: ‘Take the only tree that’s left and stuff it up the hole in your culture,’ That’s a good line about saving the forest. I haven’t read a better line than that.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993. Photo by Gerrit Terstiege.

“I felt that the things I wrote were beautiful, and that beauty was the passport for all minds.” Leonard Cohen On Publishing His First Book: Let Us Compare Mythologies

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How did you publish your first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies?

We advertised it in the university’s journal, the McGill newspaper, to launch it as a subscription series to collect the money for printing.

What were the reactions to the book?

Very favorable. In the three magazines of the country where it was criticized, the papers were very favorable. In general, it was very well received. We were starting to reach a few people outside our circle, from small groups in Toronto to Vancouver to Edmonton.

Has anyone been shocked by your mix of the sacred and sexuality?

Anyone who could have been upset by the book would not even have known about it. Maybe two hundred people read it, I don’t remember, but those people were already converted. They may not have liked it, but they have at least touched it with an open heart. There could be no resistance, it was not examined in the departments of literature or theology or in the newspapers.

So you did not think in terms of provocation?

Of course you have to insist if you want to be noticed. That’s what anyone who is published wants. There were those among the poets who wanted to provoke, to attack the bourgeoisie, to engage in a conflict. This state of mind existed among us. My texts were not written from this point of view, making enemies did not interest me. I felt that the things I wrote were beautiful, and that beauty was the passport for all minds. I believed that the objective and discerning reader would understand that this juxtaposition of sexuality and spirituality was entirely justified, that it was not a challenge or a provocation. I thought it was this juxtaposition that created that particular beauty, that kind of lyricism. I thought that the work was designed to overcome something was lower in nature. There was no need to establish a conflict.

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Book cover contributed by Dominique BOILE

“Poets, like women, know that we must labor to be beautiful.” Leonard Cohen Invokes Yeats On Poetry Requiring Labour, Not Suffering

Over the years people have said that the white man can’t sing the blues. And on the same level, for great poetry there has to be great suffering.

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Well, I’d like to down play that side of it. I think great suffering is available to everybody, not just artists. This is a very self-righteous vision that artists like to present about themselves, that they suffer more than anyone else. This can’t be true. Great suffering is available to everybody. I think it should be discounted from the equation. What I think that is forgotten about art, is that it demands work. I think Yeats said it very nicely, ‘poets, like women, know that we must labor to be beautiful.’ Of course then as Browning said, you have the ‘first fine, careless frenzy.’ You may be able to pick those phrases out of the air, especially at the beginning of the whole affair. But what has been forgotten, I think, is that it’s work. Forget the suffering, forget the anguish, forget the agonizing characteristics that have been ascribed to the whole activity. A lot of people have forgotten that this is work. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to forget it because I’m not one of that tribe that does the great song in the cafe or the back of the taxi cab. So suffering, I’d remove that from the equation because everyone has got that. Hard work, almost everyone has got that but artists. So, Irish poets, learn your craft. [Both laugh.]
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Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen radio interview by Dave Fanning (RTE: Jan 21, 1993)

The Yeats allusion is to these lines from Adam’s Curse by William Butler Yeats:

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“In a certain way Ten New Songs is an answer to The Future.” Leonard Cohen

When I heard your album “The Future” I felt certain that this would be your final work. It seemed to me that there was nothing much left to say. Did this occur to you, and if so, what inspired you to release another album?

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In a certain way Ten New Songs is an answer to The Future.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001.

“[Ten New Songs is] deceptively spare, like a Sade record, with an agreeable groove from beginning to end. You can lean on it, relax into it. There are doors and windows you can enter if you have the time” Leonard Cohen

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[Ten New Songs is] deceptively spare, like a Sade record, with an agreeable groove from beginning to end. You can lean on it, relax into it. There are doors and windows you can enter if you have the time, and I don’t think there’ll be disappointment with the furniture and appointments. It may seem to be a spare outer surface, but with investigation much filigree and ornament can be discerned. It may not be apparent, but it is there.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen by Eric Rudolph (Mix: Feb 1, 2002)

“The most I can hope for is that the songs [from the Ten New Songs album] in some small way have some utility in providing solace, because they are gentle and on the side of healing in some sort of way.” Leonard Cohen

From Look Who’s Back at 67: Gentle Leonard Cohen by Frank DiGiacomo. New York Observer: Oct 15, 2001. Note: Originally posted May 10, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“Sometimes I take a book of one of my favorite poets… You sigh with satisfaction knowing you’re with someone that you love. You relax in the company of that soul. These relationships are wonderful, very nourishing.” Leonard Cohen

Interviewer: Did these discoveries [e.g., Lorca & Yeats] immediately give you the desire to write?

Leonard Cohen: I wanted to respond to these poems. Every poem that touches you is like a call that needs a response. One wants to respond with one’s own story. Novels tend to make me silent. You live with a novel for awhile, you become, yourself, part of the novel. I never felt the need to respond to novels. But in poems, this distillation of language coincided with something in my own nature, in my soul: this kind of speed and agility.

Interviewer: Did you need to keep this passion to yourself or did you share it with others?

Leonard Cohen: Deep friendships are born on mutual interest. But the true relation between yourself and that which you love will always be private. Sometimes I take a book of one of my favorite poets… You sigh with satisfaction knowing you’re with someone that you love. You relax in the company of that soul. These relationships are wonderful, very nourishing.

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Photo from Montreal Star files. Photographer unknown. Library and Archives Canada.

“I lost my way” Leonard Cohen Talks About Failing To Connect (1988)

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I thought I was one of those men that sang about his predicament, and that somehow everybody would connect with it. But I lost my way and began involving myself with speculations that I knew deep down were not really public concerns. The world was no longer attracting me. It wasn’t very entertaining. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From “Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough” By Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988. Originally posted June 27, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric