The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:54 pm

I'm only half awake, M,
and this is my decanted-cohen vista

I see
an impossible love
an ineffable loving
a book of longing
unrequited no more
a book of mercy
grateful acceptance

an impossible trinity
a threefold quest for unity
from various positions
a man
a soul
a lord/god
yet alexander (Leonard's soul-feminine) and not her man (Cohen)
swoons with her lord
as only the soul can.

What is longing?
What is impossible?
What is ineffable?

what is mercy? ...my understanding of Cohen's "mercy"?
That a human being can not comprehend what the soul (Alexandra) experiences in the mind of her god (lord).
And yet mercifully, while comprehension is absent, knowing that merciful moment, WAS; is remembered.

This is what I, half awake, get from the work of Leonard Cohen.

Mat (bellybuttongazer) James.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:46 pm

Well, I just re-read this thread
that was fun...and that don't make it "junk".

MatbbgJ
Last edited by mat james on Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby eduardosc » Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:35 am

Hi!
Sorry if I make spelling mistakes (I'm native Spanish and writing in my tablet).
I see "By the rivers dark" has been the object of most comments. I believe this is only natural as it's a song that keeps coming back to one's mind in many situations. It's a masterpiece. Perhaps it's an example of LC doing what he says in another song (1000 KD): "you loose your grip, and then you slip, into the masterpiece"
Anyway, here goes my interpretation:
The singer is a human being who has to find his destiny. Perhaps in his youth he was married and he tried to lead an ordinary happy, and probably healthy, life. But somehow he reached a point where he found himself in more obscure surroundings, having to choose between fighting against his destiny (trying to leave babylon) or accepting it. He sees many positive things in his previous life, but a dark force (including temptations of all kind, riches and addictions: "everything") influences the singer to stay in babylon forever (there's no hope of returning). The singer is sad but at the same time proud of his permanent wandering in babylon, probably quite far from the herd.
I hope this makes sense and perhaps is interesting for some of you.
And thanks for all previous comments and contributions, I agree with many.
Ed
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mat james
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:56 am

Your English is better than mine, Eduardo!
The singer is sad but at the same time proud of his permanent wandering in babylon, probably quite far from the herd.
Yes, he seems to wallow in it, Babylon, as an observer....and hence, "far from the herd."
That moody blues daydreaming melancholic saunter. I think we all love it around here (this forum).

Welcome and thanks for entering the fray, Eduardo,
Mat (matbellybuttongazerJ)
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:23 am

Well,comrades, I have sat on my sand-hill too long. It has been awhile since we sauntered through many of the songs on this great album; and on re-reading the thread I noticed we were a couple of songs short.

Song List: Ten New Songs, by Leonard Cohen.
(http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/tennewsongs.html)

Ten New Songs:
1.In My Secret Life 4:53
2. A Thousand Kisses Deep *) 6:26
3. That Don’t Make It Junk 4:26
4. Here It Is 4:16
5. Love Itself *) 5:23
6. By The Rivers Dark 5:18
7. Alexandra Leaving *) 5:22
8. You Have Loved Enough *) 5:39
9. Boogie Street 6:03
10. The Land of Plenty 4:36

Songs we have discussed so far are,

1. That don’t make it junk
2. Love Itself
3. You have loved enough
4. By the rivers dark
5. Here it is
6. Boogie Street
7. A thousand kisses deep
8. Alexandra leaving

…and we have yet to discuss these two songs,
9. “In my secret life”
10. The Land of plenty


Anyone game to post one of the above two (9 or 10) and make a start?


MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Tchocolatl » Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:41 am

They seem so new once upon a time. A song of nostalgia, I just remember. I just wrote that I feel rarely nostagic nowadays, being old now, when I used to be all my younger life. I'm afraid that I have only a very "moral" comment about this beautiful song. I do not do it in purpose, this is the only thing that comes to my mind now, and that came to my mind when I first listened to it.
I saw you this morning.
You were moving so fast.
Can’t seem to loosen my grip
On the past.
And I miss you so much.
There’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In My Secret Life.

I smile when I’m angry.
I cheat and I lie.
I do what I have to do
To get by.
But I know what is wrong,
And I know what is right.
And I’d die for the truth
In My Secret Life.

Hold on, hold on, my brother.
My sister, hold on tight.
I finally got my orders.
I’ll be marching through the morning,
Marching through the night,
Moving cross the borders
Of My Secret Life.

Looked through the paper.
Makes you want to cry.
Nobody cares if the people
Live or die.
And the dealer wants you thinking
That it’s either black or white.
Thank G-d it’s not that simple
In My Secret Life.

I bite my lip.
I buy what I’m told:
From the latest hit,
To the wisdom of old.
But I’m always alone.
And my heart is like ice.
And it’s crowded and cold
In My Secret Life.
I thought that the heart would not be like ice, crowded and cold if the narrator was more congruent :

I smile when I’m angry.
I cheat and I lie.
I do what I have to do
To get by.
But I know what is wrong,
And I know what is right.
And I’d die for the truth
In My Secret Life.


But would it be possible to live through a day without acting socially convenient? The most important thing is that the narrator is true to himself. When one begins to lie to himself, now life can go really ackward.

A very intimate song. A guided tour of the secret garden.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Diane » Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:01 pm

Hold on, hold on, my brother.
My sister, hold on tight.
I finally got my orders.
I’ll be marching through the morning,
Marching through the night,
Moving cross the borders
Of My Secret Life.


This middle verse, in the heart of the song, evokes the image of soldiers (on 'different sides') bracing themselves to drop their defenses and reveal the hidden heart, despite the risk.

Thanks for being the trooper you are, and marching through the entirety of Ten New Songs, Mat!
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:00 am

Thanks for getting the ball rolling tchoc and thanks Diane for your comments and encouragement.
I'll paint what I see "and reveal the hidden heart, despite the risk" of in-congruency ;-)

In my secret life

Of course, these are simply the views of this belly-button-gazing saunterer; so hang onto your own interpretation and don’t be too polluted by my take on things.
I’ll start at the end of the song, the last two lines,
And it’s crowded and cold
In My Secret Life.
This, perhaps, is the life of free-range thoughts; those Free-range thoughts/eggs that hatch into unrestrained views outside the chook-pen of traditions of hope and religious culture.
Leonard’s mind is crowded with thoughts and none of them at this moment are warm, optimistic, re-assuring or loving; so his mind is crowded with negativity and perhaps hopelessness and unbelief. He is lost in what some call “the dark night of the soul”.
We all have these nihilistic doubts that rationalize our heart and soul and meaning out of existence and for some people, that perspective is ok; but for others it is cold and isolating; it is human Reason, reasoning its owner out of existence.

The crowd is his thoughts chilled perhaps by the cold light of Reason.
Like Poe’s lament for his lost Lenore, his lost love, and the thought of never seeing her again in this life, or in the next, (The Raven),

“Take thy beak from out my heart, quit the bust above my door
…Quoth the Raven…..nevermore
…and my heart from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted
nevermore”

For Poe, The Raven is symbolic of the dark night of hopelessness; and later in this album we have the song “By the Rivers Dark”, which could also be interpreted as a symbolic position of hope-less-ness.

It seems to me that it is from this perspective that the framework of the album, Ten New Songs, goes forth.
This first song begins the journey of the album; where the beacon of hope has been extinguished by the piercing beak of hope-less-existence.

“But I’m always alone.
And my heart is like ice.
And it’s crowded and cold
In My Secret Life.”

Fortunately for us, and Leonard, the songs following this one take us into more positive territory; yet still he wavers and oscillates on occasions back into the “rivers dark” then breaks-out through a “wounded dawn”.
And he is wounded.


MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Oct 26, 2014 7:36 am

I had forgot about your nickname bellybuttongazer. Funny!

Ah! there is always a risk! 8)


What about :

The Land Of Plenty"

Don’t really know who sent me
To raise my voice and say:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I don’t know why I come here,
Knowing as I do,
What you really think of me,
What I really think of you.

For the millions in a prison,
That wealth has set apart –
For the Christ who has not risen,
From the caverns of the heart –

For the innermost decision,
That we cannot but obey -
For what’s left of our religion,
I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I know I said I’d meet you,
I’d meet you at the store,
But I can’t buy it, baby.
I can’t buy it anymore.

And I don’t really know who sent me,
To raise my voice and say:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I don’t know why I come here,
knowing as I do,
what you really think of me,
what I really think of you.

For the innermost decision
That we cannot but obey
For what’s left of our religion
I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
Shine on the truth some day.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Diane » Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:34 pm

Without risk, life loses its excitement:-) So hang on a mo, Mat and Tchoc! I am still on Secret Life.

It might be the most hopeless song on TNS, but at the moment I see opposites in all LC tracks. There is progression throughout the album, but I also think each song can be considered as a stand-alone.

The beak is not so bleak. Before the hopeless, wounded and secretive heart can love anyone or anything with fewer of the lover's "crowded thoughts" getting in the way, it must know its own self (and, actually, become truly 'hopeless').

The yang in the yin of this song is "moving 'cross the borders of my secret life" - making it known, to self and others, "hold on my brother, my sister hold on tight". If you unearth the deepest roots of your tender secret life (built on wounds) and dissolve your crowded thoughts (with zazen for example, as this is the post-monastery album), it might clear the way a bit for life to become more of a feast than a secret anguish.

Love After Love,
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored

OK, return to The Land of Plenty, if it be your wills...
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Tchocolatl » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:34 pm

I don't mind to randomly go to a song from another. It is just that Poe always look to me so desperatly emprisoned in the darkness of his mind while Leonard Cohen always (wrongly or rightly) seemed to me like the Houdini of Despair.

As I do believe that Cohen sounds diffently but every time correctly to any fan, I don't "argue" or comment about a "fact" of some sort either that sibylline lyrics are not meant to be clear. :D

So OK with the crow. Nothing to say, nothing to add. I acknowledge the crow, Steven.

Many men tend to encaged their sorrow, being raised not to "act like girls" (which means being deprived of the species natural mecanism of comfort and diying from heart attack instead. Well, it's a supposition.) Maybe art is the only socially acceptable way for them to express feelings they "should not" do otherwise and this is why there is so much darkness in poetry and literature. Well, another supposition.

This said I am sensitive to the crossing of borders stressed by you, Diane.

The Land of Plenty I never did catch something from it, and still don't. It seems a social critic of the empty societies of consomers (vs. citizens). Something like that.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:24 am

I saw a comment by “tchocolatl” on another thread and I thought much of it was relevant to this thread, (though completely out of context) so I edited it a bit (cut some out) and post what remains as thoughts that also work for reading Leonard Cohen’s or anybody’s work/poems. (I did this without choc's permission, so I hope that is ok.)
I suppose I'll find out, one way or another. 8)

“To be attentive to another person works often as music that arouse gentle emotions : people who are sad say the music is sad. Because their feelings are sad and they are not fully aware about it. They have a filter between them and the world that distorted the communication: it colors the input, then the treatment of it, and the ouput is not fitting the input. Well.
And we have many filters.
Often people are their best molestor, they look at themselves and are hard and harsh and addresses mean critics to themselves - they are replaying what they experienced in this regard. So when other persons are attentive to them, it activates the critical inner judges.

It is true that when people are attentive to others, it can be to tell them to do this and that, without real regard to what the person is. Even with the best intentions.

I don't think that Leonard Cohen is telling anybody to be or do anything in his songs. This is why people Love him so much, hihi.

…To go against one nature seems not to be the best ticket for an enjoyable life.

…Absolute control means absolute solitude…”


{The original posting is linked, (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=34080&p=349803#p349803)}

I love Derek's poem Diane!

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Tchocolatl » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:00 am

I did talk to my lawyers and they told me it will be more costly to sue you than to let go. :D

Now, I must be a Houdini of this place to which I tightened myself voluntarily. Ladies and Gentlemen, hold your breath, will she make it ?

But I will come to read, so please continue the interesting reviews of the songs. I may not appreciate the writings of Egdar Allan Poe, but that does not mean I do not appreciate what you write about it, "mat james". 8) And all your other posts.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby mat james » Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:30 am

Without risk, life loses its excitement:-) So hang on a mo, Mat and Tchoc! I am still on Secret Life.
Diane

Me too, Diane;
and thanks for your interesting and reassuring post, reminding me of the beauty of our dark nights.
Before the hopeless, wounded and secretive heart can love anyone or anything with fewer of the lover's "crowded thoughts" getting in the way, it must know its own self (and, actually, become truly 'hopeless').
Diane

Yes, that is the process; no arguments from me here.

I would like a few others also to have their say for a week or two before I move to "The Land of Plenty".
Where are all those keen participants from previous pages on this thread?
Where are Tine D., Joe Way, Gulivor, and Doron (with an "o") and all the other shredders of light ? 8) ;-)
Keep tripping me up and exploring Leonard further Diane and tchoc; the fatter the fruitcake, the better the coffee.

As for me, I have only really Ravened on about the last verse of this song at this stage; the bit about a heart and beaks like "ice" and a "crowded" secret life.
There is a lot more to it as tchoc and Diane have pointed out. But I want to explore it more, through you other people as well.
I don't always get what I want, nor should I, but

.... oh me oh my ...I'm a selfish sorta guy.

go for it. 8)

MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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Re: The poetry of "Ten New Songs"

Postby Diane » Thu Oct 30, 2014 10:09 am

Hi Mat! I enjoy your enthusiasm. It would be marvellous to see some of the old (and new) faces say their piece. Yes, go for it folks! That is a fab, apt, Tchoc quote you discovered btw. (I am away at the mo, look forward to catching up more next week.)

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