“…Like a bear stumbling into a beehive or a honey cache: I’m stumbling right into it and getting stuck, and it’s delicious and it’s horrible and I’m in it and it’s not very graceful and it’s very awkward and it’s very painful and yet there’s something inevitable about it.” —Leonard Cohen (on his writing process)
He’s a Canadian icon, an international artist, and highly regarded as a poet and singer-songwriter.
His name came up at our Christmas Eve dinner party when I thought to change the jazz we had playing for some of Mr. Cohen’s music. One of the guests retorted he might as well slit his wrists if I did that. And so started our conversation about Leonard Cohen.
I’ve been listening to his songs over the past month for inspiration. As with most music I like, I tend to overplay it until I attach myself to something else. It’s not that I consider Mr. Cohen a great singer, his style more akin to a poet reading to music than singing to it. What I do love, however, is the intense imagery of his lyrics. That’s no surprise considering my first exposure to him was when I read Beautiful Losers—his second and last novel penned in 1966. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, exploring a ménage à trois, its risqué language certainly left its mark on me.
Now, at the age of 75, Mr. Cohen has just finished a concert tour which began back in 2008. It was the first time in fifteen years he had performed live: a venture he undertook, it seems, for both spiritual enlightenment and to recoup some of the money that had been stolen from him by his former business manager—savings which at one point totaled more than $8 million dollars and had dwindled to $150,000.
It’s timely that his poetry has re-entered my psyche as he’s trying to rebuild his life. I’ve always related to him on a spiritual plane and find it fascinating that as both an observant Jew and an ordained Zen Buddhist monk, he finds no conflict in living his life with what seems like dichotomous beliefs.
His songs probe the human themes of love, loss, and death. A Zen monk who writes sensual lyrics—hotter than hell.