An informal portrait of the Montréal poet, novelist and songwriter, from the National Film Board of Canada's YouTube channel.
Watch a 2009 interview with Leonard Cohen on CBC's Q TV. From YouTube.
A major volume of collected writing, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs appeared in 1993. In the same year, Cohen was awarded the Governor General's Performing Arts Award, and the first academic conference devoted completely to his work took place in Red Deer, Alta. In 1994, his 60th birthday was marked by the publication of a Festschrift, Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen. Cohen's work has been widely translated; he is especially popular in France, Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Although his musical career has taken the foreground, Leonard Cohen has continued to write poetry. Book of Longing, released in 2007, is a collection of poems written over a five year period during which he lived in a Zen monastery in Southern California, and during sojourns in Los Angeles, Montréal and Mumbai.
In addition to the Governor General's Performing Arts Award (declined), Cohen was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame and made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991 (elevated to Companion in 2003). He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 and received the Glenn Gould Prize for lifetime achievement in the arts in 2012. At the 2013 Junos in Regina, Cohen won the award for Artist of the Year as well as for Songwriter of the Year for his album 2012 album Old Ideas.
Although the popular conception is of Cohen as a romantic love poet - author of the lovely lyrics of The Spice-Box of Earth - his imaginative vision can also be dark and despairing. As a Jew, Cohen has always been acutely aware of the Holocaust, and images of the Nazi genocide permeate and condition his work. Poetry, religion, sex, death, beauty and power form an interlocked pattern, heightened by the sensuousness of his language, and also emphasized by a wild, outrageous and black sense of humour. Cohen celebrates the destruction of the self and the abnegation of power.
The harshness of this vision reaches its peak in Beautiful Losers, itself an extraordinary novel which is by turns historical and surreal, religious and obscene, comic and ecstatic; it remains the most radical (and beautiful) experimental novel ever published in Canada. The songs tend to be gentler, less absolute in their vision. Even in such bleakly apocalyptic statements as "The Future," the pessimism of Cohen's vision is mitigated by his delight in making music. If Beautiful Losers is Cohen's masterpiece, perhaps the most concise statement he has ever made of his central vision occurs in the last verse of his song "The Window," from Recent Songs:
Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the High Holy One
For the Holy One dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless the continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh
Only Leonard Cohen could conceive of the process of the Word being made Flesh as a stutter - and only Cohen could bless that insight.
See also LEONARD COHEN.
Author STEPHEN SCOBIE
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
The website for legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Features a biography, discography, tour dates, video clips, and more.
The website for the JUNO Awards and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Scroll down the page to check out the latest award winners and music clips. Sample the latest JUNO Awards CD. From the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Canadian Music Hall of Fame
The website for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame from the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS).
Leonard Cohen: Canada's Melancholy Bard
A collection of vintage television and radio clips featuring interviews with Leonard Norman Cohen, one of Canada's most influential cultural icons. From CBC Digital Archives.
Leonard Cohen on the road to singing sensation
A 1966 CBC TV video about Leonard Cohen. From the show "This Hour has Seven Days."
Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen
View a 1965 documentary about Leonard Cohen's performing career and his ties to his home town of Montréal. From the National Film Board of Canada.
The Governor General’s Literary Awards
See an illustrated history of the Governor General’s Literary Awards that examines their importance to publishers, how winners’ books are marketed, and the effect of the awards on book sales. From the website "Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing", McMaster University.
Hallelujah's journey from obscurity to modern standard
A CBC News story that tracks the rise of Leonard Cohen's most-covered song.
Our National Muse
Judith Fitzgerald writes about poet Irving Layton and his friendship with Leonard Cohen. From leonardcohenfiles.com.
Intricate Preparations: Writing Leonard Cohen
See page page 104 for Judith Fitzgerald's thoughtful essay about Leonard Cohen's moody song lyrics. From Google Books.