Monday, November 07, 2016

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen. A Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, and painter, he was one of the enduring influences on my own work and journey as a poet and artist. As I've written in the past, I first became familiar with his work through a newspaper article in the Ann Arbor News that led me to his album I'm Your Man followed by The Future, and then a variety of collections of his older work. The tribute album I'm Your Fan remains one of my favorites, as well as Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat. Tori Amos has one of my favorite covers of Famous Blue Raincoat that's well worth a listen.

I'll be spending the whole month listening to all of his songs even as I think of the new world we're walking into. I suppose it's fitting considering his muse Marianne passed away earlier this year. There's a deep poetry to this. Heading into New York this week, I'll be spending part of the day visiting the Chelsea Hotel and Clinton Street, to name a few.


Among the books of Leonard Cohen I appreciate the most, it has to be his collection Book of Longing from 2007, which came at a pivotal point in my life as I released my own first full-length collection of poetry On The Other Side Of The Eye.

Leonard Cohen had written the poems in Book of Longing through the course of a five-year journey at the Zen monastery on Mount Baldy, as well as travels through Los Angeles, Montreal, and Mumbai. It was his first new book in 20 years, which would mean since 1987, approximately when I first ran into his work. It was interwoven with his drawings designed to tease out the great questions with a dark, meditative and timeless humor that I appreciated, much in the tradition of the great koans. Buddhist Door had a nice article on his journey back in 2015, and NPR recently talked about it in October, revisiting his 2006 interview with Terry Gross.

As you can imagine, this all resonates with me as I consider my own recent stay in the Theravada Buddhist monastery of my family in Ceres, California. There's a lot I'll eventually discuss, and yet so much I haven't been able to articulate, either. Which sounds funny for a poet whose spent most of his life at this sort of thing, but as Vonnegut says, so it goes.

As it stands, Leonard Cohen's music and poetry gave me the comfort and the support I needed to carve out my own path embracing speculative poetry. With songs of his like The Future, or Jazz Police, First We Take Manhattan, Ain't No Cure For Love and Tower of Song, with their rich yet almost surreal imagery, I appreciated him showing what verse was capable of when we freed it from the anchors of 'realism.' 

There's certainly so much more I could go into discussing his work and what I've admired about his journey, but it seems sufficient at this point to simply say, "Thanks, Leonard, for everything." And now, time to write.

No comments: