“I keep scratching away and things emerge” Leonard Cohen On Writing Poems Vs Songs Vs Novels

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He [Leonard Cohen] has published three collections of poetry and two novels, The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers. He continues to write poetry, but it takes a back seat to his music.

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I keep scratching away and things emerge. It’s a swifter, more impressionistic kind of work. The song is based on the stanza and uses a very intricate verse form. Whereas writing so-called poetry when you don’t have to come to the end of the line is a freer kind of activity. The regimen these songs demand is very much like the novel — they demand a daily application. There’s no way you can do this on the run. I wish there were. But, chez moi, I’ve got to get down to it every day.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Rebirth of a Ladies’ Man By Brendan Kelly. The Financial Post: December 12, 1992. Image from back cover of Flowers for Hitler by Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Cape (UK): 1973. Photo by Sophie Baker.

“I do not put poems to music as many people think.” Leonard Cohen On The Difference Between Written And Sung Poetry

About the difference between written and sung poetry:

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Poems that are written for a book have certain rhythms that rise from the leaf to the eye. Not only visual rhythms, but also the rhythm of whispering, of the human voice. Lyrics that become songs were usually meant as songs. I do not put poems to music as many people think. My songs are all written as songs. Sometimes the lyrics of songs appear in a poetry collection. I had written Parasites of Heaven, but that book was rather thin. I had just finished a few songs and then decided to add the lyrics of those songs [Teachers, Suzanne, Master Song and Avalanche] to the end of the bundle, where they stand apart. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen – All culture is nail polish by Bert van de Kamp, OOR magazine No.21, October 23,1974. [Via Google Translate]. Thanks to Gordana Stupar, who alerted me to this article.

“The Future would be pretty grim if I just nailed it up on the church door like Martin Luther. I mean it is a hot little track and you can dance to it. It’s gotta have that.” Leonard Cohen


 
From Rebirth of a Ladies’ Man By Brendan Kelly. The Financial Post: December 12, 1992.

“Religion, teachers, women, drugs, the road, fame, money … nothing gets me high and offers relief from the suffering like blackening pages, writing.” Leonard Cohen – From Adam Cohen’s Foreword To The Flame

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“A lot of my work is about what is appropriate behavior in the face of the flood, in the torrent… What is the appropriate conversation, the deep conversation?” Leonard Cohen

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A lot of my work is about what is appropriate behavior in the face of the flood, in the torrent. Is it appropriate to talk about European union? What is the appropriate conversation, the deep conversation? How do you extend fraternal greetings under these conditions – at a time when you can’t be sure if the guy is coming to embrace you or hit you with a baseball bat? You have to develop an alertness that enables you to discern things.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From “Hello! I Must Be Cohen” By Gavin Martin (New Musical Express, January 9, 1993).

“If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often. And I guess [Bob Dylan] feels the same way.” Leonard Cohen (1992)

2Leonard Cohen Interview with Serge Simonart (1992). Photo by Pete Purnell.

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at

“[Light As The Breeze] emphasizes the temporary, fleeting comfort that this congress brings. Nevertheless, when you’ve had a moment of comfort you return to the struggle with the residue of the experience.” Leonard Cohen

Light As The Breeze shows Leonard drawing his sustenance from womankind.

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It emphasizes the temporary, fleeting comfort that this congress brings. Nevertheless, when you’ve had a moment of comfort you return to the struggle with the residue of the experience. It enables you to shoulder things better.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From “Hello! I Must Be Cohen” By Gavin Martin (New Musical Express, January 9, 1993). Photo by xrayspx.

Leonard Cohen On His Songs

Leonard Cohen’s comments on his songs, organized by song title, are collected at Leonard Cohen On His Songs

“I do not think it matters much what a writer says about his work. The work becomes independent, leads a life of its own.” Leonard Cohen On Sisters Of Mercy

Interviewer: Another story is that of Barbara and Lorraine, two girls, who provided hospitality to Cohen when he was lost in a blizzard in Edmonton, Alberta in ’66. He tells that story whenever he begins Sisters of Mercy, because he wrote that song for those girls and in their sleeping presence. I never believed that story so much. I always took the song as a song about a brothel. I tell him that.

Leonard Cohen: I always dedicate that song to those girls, because it really happened as I say – we did not make love, but I wrote while they slept. But maybe you are right. I do not think it matters much what a writer says about his work. The work becomes independent, leads a life of its own. For you this is about something else for someone else. I’ve told you what it’s all about for me.

Interviewer: In the evening at the concert in Amsterdam, Leonard recounts the story of the two girls again, but adds:

Leonard Cohen: It’s not an allegory, it’s exactly what happened.

From Leonard Cohen – All culture is nail polish by Bert van de Kamp, OOR magazine No.21, October 23,. [Via Google Translate]. Photo by Sam Gray and copyrighted by Sam Gray with all rights reserved.  Thanks to Gordana Stupar, who alerted me to this article.