Q: Do you enjoy the process of writing itself? Leonard Cohen: “I feel very distant when I’m doing it. I feel like there’s someone across the room who is very diligently filling in the blanks of a questionnaire. It’s hard.”

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From Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead (and other things I learned from famous people) by Neil Strauss (The Truth About Lies: July 9, 2011). Image from back cover of Flowers for Hitler by Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Cape (UK): 1973. Photo by Sophie Baker.

“This is my adventure. My greatest need is to be interesting to myself.” Leonard Cohen

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Sometimes I feel that my life is a sell-out and that I’m the greatest comedian of my generation. But I have to keep going. I can’t remain fifteen and a virgin. So now I’m thirty-six and greedy. I’m willing to be this. I was once never able to stay in the same room with four people. Only a girl who adored me. I feel better now. The more vulgar I get, the more concerned with others I get. I’m trying to cure myself and the only way to cure myself is to take over the world. This is my adventure. My greatest need is to be interesting to myself. Suffering has led me to wherever I am. Suffering has made me rebel against my own weakness.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen Wants the Unconditional Leadership of the World by Susan Lumsden (Weekend Magazine: Sept 12, 1970). Photo Credit: Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174

 

“When you have those moments where you inform yourself of something that wasn’t immediately apparent, that’s when it becomes interesting.” Leonard Cohen On Songwriting

In many ways, [your 1992 album] The Future picked up on what was in the air and became almost prophetic.

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I think that sensibility is nothing you can summon, but it really arises if you keep uncovering the song and trying to get beneath the slogan – either the emotional slogan or the political slogan. So much of the work that I hear, there’s nothing wrong with it, but much of it has the feel of a slogan or an agenda that’s already been written. It’s a perfectly good slogan, and there are interesting variations on it. But if you’re interested in forming yourself through your work, which I think is more interesting, then you have to keep uncovering and discarding those slogans until you get something. When you have those moments where you inform yourself of something that wasn’t immediately apparent, that’s when it becomes interesting.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead (and other things I learned from famous people) by Neil Strauss (The Truth About Lies: July 9, 2011)

Q: Would you rather make love or make poems? Or is it the same thing? Leonard Cohen: “That depends on the girl”


From A Session With Poet Cohen by Jon Whyte, Patricia Hughes, Terry Donnelly, and John Thompson. The Gateway, December 2, 1966. (The Gateway is the student newspaper of The University of Alberta)

“To move a song from a slogan to an authentic expression is really what the enterprise is about… discarding the lines that come too easy… waiting until something else bubbles up that is a little truer” Leonard Cohen On The 3 Steps Of Creating A Song

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I wish it didn’t take so long to finish a song and to make a record… it seems to be a long process… it’s trying to discover how I really feel about something. To move a song from a slogan to an authentic expression is really what the enterprise is about… discarding the lines that come too easy…  waiting until something else bubbles up that is a little truer… There’s the writing of the song, which can be laborious and difficult; there’s the recording of the song in the studio, which also takes a tremendous concentration… to materialize the songs. And then the third part of the process is singing the songs in front of other people.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, speaking “for German television in 1997,” quoted in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia by Michael Gray (2006). Photo by Johann Agust Hansen.

“I wrote a song like Everybody Knows to close that gap [between private life & public life] and the only way to close it is by speaking of it humourously, speaking of it as a joke, and saying the things that we all know” Leonard Cohen on Everybody Knows

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Without the music and nonsense rhymes, Everybody Knows would be pretty hard to take – the funeral quality of the message. It also pushes things very, very far just to get a laugh and that makes it amusing. It gives a jingle effect that as I say modifies and mitigates the heaviness of the vision. I think that everybody does know these things…These ideas were started a long time ago in my work, but the romantic world is just as Lorca said in that poem Take This Waltz. These romantic images that he’s using…he knows they’re rotten, he know they’re old, he knows they’re finished. That’s why it’s such a modern poem… There seems to be some appetite to say those words: ‘Everybody knows it’s coming apart.’ Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just because I’m middle-aged and maybe nothing’s coming apart but, to me, those images, those romantic expectations, those religious expectations, the political vocabulary, are obsolete. I’ve never felt so much difference between the private life and the public life. There doesn’t seem to be a public life and there’s nobody speaking in a way that seems to address me… I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just getting old, maybe not, maybe I’m right, so I wrote a song like Everybody Knows to close that gap and the only way to close it is by speaking of it humourously, speaking of it as a joke, and saying the things that we all know.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

I’m Your Man by Alberto Manzano (Rockdelux (Spain): May 1988)

Leonard Cohen On His Motivation For Recording Songs of Leonard Cohen “I was trying to come up with a solution to being a writer and not having to go to a university to teach.”

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

“We’re such a hip age. Nobody wants to affirm those realities. It doesn’t go with your sunglasses.” Leonard Cohen Explains Why The Book Of Mercy Was His “Toughest Book To Talk About”

 

Tell me about Book of Mercy. What were the circumstances that generated it?

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Silence. I was silenced in all areas. I couldn’t move. I was up against the wall. It was the only way I could penetrate through my predicament. I could pick up my guitar and sing but I couldn’t locate my voice… I began to have the courage to write down my prayers. To apply to the source of mercy. At first I had tried to deal with it by not writing. I felt that writing was a kind of self-conscious activity that might come between me and what I wanted to speak. But I found that was the way that I speak. I found that the act of writing was the proper form for my prayer. It was the only type of sound I could make. I didn’t bring much to it. I didn’t bring concerns about whether there is a God or not. Those are just questions of the mind. The mind has the capacity to question but not to answer… Now I find it’s the toughest book to talk about. Because it is prayer. One feels a little shy about the whole thing. We’re such a hip age. Nobody wants to affirm those realities. It doesn’t go with your sunglasses. But I know that the voice in the book is true. And I know that the book is true. It lifted me up to write it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Strong Voices: Conversations with Fifty Canadian Authors by Alan Twigg (Harbour Pub: 1988).