“I don’t even think of them as poems, when I wrote those things they were techniques to get myself together. But I found I can’t use any ornaments, I can’t use tricks.” Leonard Cohen On Writing Poetry

lcerite

What about your writing, when did it start?

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Well, I do remember sitting down at a card table on a sun porch one day when I decided to quit a job. I was working in a brass foundry at the time and one morning I thought, I just can’t take this anymore, and I went out to the sun porch and I started a poem. I had a marvelous sense of mastery and power, and freedom, and strength, when I was writing this poem. I haven’t had that feeling too often since. As a matter of fact, now when I write what turns out to be a poem, or what other people call a poem, it’s because I can’t say anything. It’s because I have to struggle with coherency in its most elementary state so that the kind of things that are in the last poems of my anthology are just one degree over, or one degree on the side of coherence. If you just took that degree away I would be left in a…I would be disintegrated. In other words, I want my poems to be, I don’t even think of them as poems, when I wrote those things they were techniques to get myself together. But I found I can’t use any ornaments, I can’t use tricks.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969.

“Almost all my songs can be sung any way. They can be sung as tough songs or as gentle songs or as contemplative songs or as courting songs.” Leonard Cohen

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I don’t think too much about the words because I know that the words are completely empty and any emotion can be poured into them. Almost all my songs can be sung any way. They can be sung as tough songs or as gentle songs or as contemplative songs or as courting songs.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969. Photo: Copyright John Rettie – www.rocknrollphotographs.com

“[Country music] is often complex stuff, about love and divorce and law and sometimes quite obscure feelings that make most pop music very, very kindergarten.” Leonard Cohen

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[Country music] is the music I always reach for when I’m in the car. I like it because it’s a simple yet highly sophisticated music. It uses few chords, its simple structure lending it an attachment to austerity. Because of its simple structure, it has to be highly sophisticated if it is going to touch the heart without people saying yuk. Nobody gets away with anything in country lyrics. If you listen to them against pop lyrics, there’s no contest. Those guys know how to write a verse. It’s often complex stuff, about love and divorce and law and sometimes quite obscure feelings that make most pop music very, very kindergarten.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Tortoise-Shell Hero by Biba Kopf. New Musical Express, March 2, 1985. Photo by Anne M Bra.. Originally posted June 5, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I got this call from a chap called Robert Altman. And he says, ‘Listen, you know, I love those songs, I’ve built a film around them, can I use them?’ I said, ‘Who are you?'” Leonard Cohen’s Appreciation Of Brewster McCloud Prompts Him To Sign On For McCabe & Mrs Miller

Were you consulted about the songs in McCabe?

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I was living in Franklin, in Tennessee, and I’d come into Nashville just to see a movie–we’d been living out in the sticks for a long time. And I saw this movie called Brewster McCloud. Have you seen it? It’s a very, very beautiful and I would say brilliant film. I sat through it twice. Maybe I just hadn’t seen a movie in a long time, but it was really fine. I was in the studio that night, in Nashville, and I got this call from a chap called Robert Altman. And he says, ‘Listen, you know, I love those songs, I’ve built a film around them, can I use them?’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘Well, I did M*A*S*H, that’s my film.’ I said, ‘I know it was enormously successful, but I haven’t seen it. Is there anything else that you’ve done that I might know?’ ‘Well, I did a picture that’s been completely buried, that you wouldn’t know about, it was called Brewster McCloud.’ I said, ‘Listen, I just came out of the theatre, I saw it twice, you can have anything of mine you want!’ I did do some additional music–only one thing that was used, I did a guitar background for a little soliloquy by Warren Beatty; it’s just barely perceptible but that is one of the nicest things I ever did, I love that piece. Then I saw the picture, the finished picture without the music, the soundtrack hadn’t been completed. And I said, ‘Listen, man, I’ve got to tell you–if we ever work together again I want you to know you can get an honest opinion from me–I don’t like it.’ He was quite hurt, as I would be too, but… Then I went to the theater in Montreal, and I saw the picture with the music and everything, and it was great! I called Altman in London, it took me two days to track him down, and told him, ‘Forget everything I said, it’s really beautiful.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic In A Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975).

More posts about Leonard Cohen’s music in McCabe & Mrs Miller are found at

“There is a kind of surrender about it, not in the sense of giving up but the kind of surrender that involves an embrace.” Leonard Cohen On Reconciliation With God In Various Positions


A sense of reconciliation, as opposed to raging against God… permeates Various Positions.

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Well, I think the record is clearer in its own way. There isn’t a clear message in it, a programme that is being offered or a a manifesto in that sense, but yeah I think it is reconciled… There is a kind of surrender about it, not in the sense of giving up but the kind of surrender that involves an embrace.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Tortoise-Shell Hero by Biba Kopf. New Musical Express, March 2, 1985.

“I try everything. I’ll do anything… Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with a song long enough, it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you might think long enough may be.” Leonard Cohen On Songwriting


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[I bring] anything I can bring to it [writing a song]. Thought, meditation, drinking, disillusion, insomnia, vacations… Because once the song enters the mill, it’s worked on by everything that I can summon. And I need everything. I try everything. I try to ignore it, try to repress it, try to get high, try to get intoxicated, try to get sober, all the versions of myself that I can summon are summoned to participate in this project, this work force. I try everything. I’ll do anything. By any means possible. [Interviewer: ‘Do any of these methods work best?’] No. Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with a song long enough, it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you might think long enough may be.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen by Paul Zollo. Boulevard Magazine: Jan 29, 2013. Photo by J. Scherr.

Leonard Cohen On Writing Songs For New Skin For The Old Ceremony: “I went to Ethiopia looking for a suntan. It rained, including in the Sinai desert, but through this whole period I had my little guitar with me, and it was then I felt the songs emerging”

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I work very slowly and abandoned hope for many of them [the songs for New Skin For The Old Ceremony]. However, last summer I went to Ethiopia looking for a suntan. It rained, including in the Sinai desert, but through this whole period I had my little guitar with me, and it was then I felt the songs emerging – at least, the conclusions that I had been carrying in manuscript form for the last four or five years, from hotel room to hotel room.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen: Cohen’s New Skin by Harvey Kubernik. Melody Maker: 1 March 1975. Originally posted Dec 18, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“That’s my theme: It’s a mess – thank God.” Leonard Cohen

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One idea on [The Future] is that the human predicament has no solution. We were tossed out of the garden; this isn’t paradise. And to look for perfect solutions is a very difficult burden to bear. That’s my theme: It’s a mess – thank God.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From 7 Reasons Leonard Cohen Is the Next-Best Thing to God by David Browne. Entertainment Weekly, Jan 8, 1993.