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Poetry Group

  • Mar 23, 2013 · 3:00 PM
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A full range, from mildly depressing, to moderately depressing, to starkly and darkly depressing. That is the picture some have of the work of Canadian poet and novelist turned singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen (b. 1934). Yet this is the man who, during recent world tours, can return for a second, or sometimes third, standing-ovation encore with a sparkle in the eye and the song, "I Tried to Leave You," . . .

Others will see only the unfiltered religious uplift they somehow manage to perceive in Cohen's richly-orchestrated "Hallelujah." Yet just-last-year's, "Amen," is - thank the Almighty - hardly, "Hallelujah, part II," what with its steering of even the most sacred imagery toward the carnal refrain, "Tell me again . . . Tell me that you want me then. Amen."

Do the successions of contradictory images and apparent non-sequiturs, the recurrent themes of need and brokenness and of difficult and limited redemption, of burden, distant unencumbered light and constant romantic entanglement, always add up to anything? I dunno. But we aims to find out, once and for all.

In addition to illustrating the progression in Cohen's musical style, both, "Suzanne" [link below to the 1966 Judy Collins cover, a year before Leonard's debut album opened with an even more spare version] and the aforementioned, "Hallelujah" [2nd link below to the 1984 original] are touchstones of turn-of-the-century cultural literacy:

To achieve a fair variety in our meeting, the current plan is to focus on Cohen's, "Anthem," "Field Commander Cohen," "Fingerprints," and "Going Home," although by show-time that could change. Among other possibilities are, "Democracy," "Everybody Knows," "The Future," and "Tower of Song," as well as a handful of shorter works. Text, and, probably, audio versions of these are almost certainly available online.

Attendees are encouraged - nay, challenged - to bring along a Leonard Cohen poem or lyric that deeply impresses, amuses or confounds them. If not a poem entire, at least a fragment, phrase or line. Let's close for now with this 1972 mixture of pop whimsy and profound subject matter:


One of the lizards

was blowing bubbles

as it did pushups on the tree trunk

I did pushups this morning

on the carpet

and I blew bubbles of Bazooka

last night in the car

I believe the mystics are right

when they say we are all One

[Leonard Cohen performs March 22 at The Fox - tickets have sold well]

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  • Frank V

    Thanks everybody. Ron and Susan for your enthusiasm, and Trent and Ellen for that, plus your planned contributions. Looking forward to next month. Until then, remember: "Don't leave the light on, because that's how the crack gets in."

    March 23, 2013

  • Ellen L.

    I first heard of Leonard Cohen from Judy Collins. An album called "Wildflowers" had several songs (and some she wrote) that are still among my favorites. Judy has a warmer voice and style that give a feeling perhaps of longing or sadness but not really depression since they are mingled with good memories or hope. The ones I recall are Priests, Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye, and the one I like best, The Sisters of Mercy. I can send email to everyone on these and bring copies to the meeting. Looking at his work, I find more I like, but would rather listen to Judy Collins, who loves his work, sing.

    March 19, 2013

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