Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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vlcoats
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Postby vlcoats » Mon Dec 31, 2018 10:19 pm

Hello-
Sorry I have been gone for so long. Although things may have kept me from posting, nothing has kept me from reading and listening to Leonard. I am about to start Book of Mercy, but before I do, I had a few more thoughts on DOALM. First off, I have to say, what a wealth of thoughts and feelings there is to explore in this little book!

Monica and Lilith- I had to do a little research on the meaning of these two names after seeing them appear multiple times--- sometimes alone, sometimes together. They seemed a bit ying/yang or dark/light. The name Monica was already of personal interest to me. One of my siblings was named Monica, but she died before I was born. My sister named my niece in her memory, but she too passed before her time. I am not sure why I had not looked up the origin of the name until now. Regardless, I found out that St. Monica is the patron saint of married women, who, according to the Google gods, is honored for her Christian virtues. She was remembered in particular for the suffering she endured, caused by her husband's adultery. Lilith on the other hand is a bit of a demon, and according to Jewish tradition was Adam's first wife and the embodiment of the temptations that a man is subject to before- and after- he meets the love of his life. I found this last info on the abarim-piblications.com website in their 'Biblical Name Vault' which was very interesting. Anyway, judging by some of Leonard's favorite subjects to write about, I can see why both of these women would interest him. By the way, the entry in Death of a Lady's Man that at last caused me to look them up is titled 'Traditional Training and Service'.

There was an entry in this book that made me think of another discussion in our forum (Along the Way... Discovering Leonard's Music) where we were talking about the song The Window. We were supposing different meanings of the rose as a symbol in Leonard's lyrics. Here in DOALM, he gives us the answer, or at least one of the answers, when he tells us that the rose symbolizes surrender. However, I have just looked through my copy to find the poem, and now I cannot find it! This cracks me up because I must have at least 30 sticky notes and torn scraps of paper tucked into this interesting book and not one was on the entr I am looking for. Anyway, I bring it up to point out that what B4 quoted earlier here from an interview of Leonard's seems to be true.
B4real post wrote:....“there are the answers to all your questions in this book” and “all the answers are here; it’s all in here.”...
Lastly, regarding the songs and seeds of songs in DOALM, I was happy to see the lines of one my favorites from Recent Songs appear as the last stanza in Everything That Is Unengaged:

and look, dear heart, how the virgin
she takes him into her gown,
and see how the stranger's armour
dissolves like a star falling down


I remember when we were discussing the album, I said that I liked Humbled in Love, but I was told that Leonard never played it live and had said it was an 'embarrasement' to him. I thought then that I could not imagine him being embarrassed since as we all know, he was very picky about what he thought was worthy of recording. The fact that these lines also appear in print in Death of a Lady's Man makes me wonder even more why he said was embarrassed by it.

I know I keep saying I love each of his books, but you will have to take my word for it when I say it yet again... I truly do love this interesting little book.

Now, as for the next one, Book of Mercy. I can't help but feel that it will be a marked change in style and substance, but maybe I am completely wrong. I will find out.

I admit that I am looking forward to 2019 with open arms and I wish anyone who happens to read this a very Happy New Year!

Vickie
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vlcoats
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Postby vlcoats » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:24 am

I have finished Book of Mercy. Actually, I finished it several days ago, but I have been mulling over how to approach describing my reaction to this book. I haven't read the reviews and threads on this book on the forum or anywhere else, but I am aware that it is an important book, so of course anything I have to add is a drop in a very large bucket, but still I feel called to comment. But I am not sure how it will be received.

There is a word going around lately that is used to describe a reaction to something that doesn't produce much of a reaction at all. The word is "meh'. I guess this is close to how I feel about Book of Mercy. Nobody could be more surprised or disappointed by this than me. Even Dave was taken back and asked me, "Are you saying that Leonard," and when speaking Leonard's name, Dave put his hand over his heart with fingers spread, (just as someone we met in Montreal did when we told them why were visiting their town) and continued, "Are you saying that your beloved Leonard has left you... wanting?" He was teasing of course, but Dave has witnessed my reaction to Leonard over the past 2 years, and he knew how much I was looking forward to Book of Mercy.

After trying to figure out why I feel like this, I have come up with a couple ideas---- I have never thought of myself as an 'old soul', so maybe here is my proof. Or maybe I am just not worthy of it? Another theory is that maybe there are just not enough cracks in my facade to let the light in. (I tend to be more proud and full of myself than I should be). I don't know the answer.

But there is one thing that I do know..... If there truly is a G*d, it is not by heeding the words of praise and private prayers of others that I will meet him. Not even if they come from our Mr. Cohen, whose words I have come to value over all.

I don't know why religious praise has always left me so cold. By praise, I am not talking about discussions about religion or religious stories and theories. I am not talking about soul searching and discovery. I am not talking about reasoning with him, bargaining with him, and arguing with him. That is the stuff of life and the stuff of great poetry and songs and stories! I am talking about out and out praise, as in "Holy Art Thou, Oh Great and Powerful Oz!" type of praise, the kind of stuff that seems to keep coming from those who have met him. I feel that kind of praise is not only very private but it is unnecessary and even redundant. Do you think he doesn't already know what you are thinking? Do you think you have anything new to say? There is no language needed.

But, I haven't met him yet, so I don't know what I am talking about, do I.

I am not saying that Book of Mercy is without merit, that would be totally ridiculous and untrue. Book I spoke to me the most. In an oversimplified way, I would say that Book I to me is mostly about struggle and searching, while Book II is mostly about acceptance and praise.
Poem 3- I liked this one because of how he described hearing his soul singing, but then when he tried to reach it, it was singing against him. I didn't like the last line, but that just goes to show that I am not getting this book.
Poem 11- I like dogs better than cats, but I ignored that. I identified with, "How can say this gently?" and "Your instructions are wasted here..."
Poem 22- Not for the donkey (that was a bonus), but for the sheer poetry of "He has some pictures in his mind, they're all round and wet, very pressing, and he has his belt, he's going to give her what he wants". I liked the whole thing, but I have to admit, maybe it is the sexual images that I liked the most. I am sure they were not his point probably, but after Beautiful Losers, I was glad to see that part of him was still there, even here in the gilded halls of the Book of Mercy, lol!
Poem 49- This was the only one in Book II that I marked with a scrap of paper.

So.... when it comes to Stranger Song, is it a collection of already released songs and poetry, or does it contain new stuff?

I hope I have not lost my standing in the fan club because of my difficulties with Book of Mercy....

Vickie
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mat james
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Postby mat james » Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:04 am

Why do you care about your "standing"?
Keep doing what you do. Honesty and bravery will get you "there" .
...
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
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B4real
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Postby B4real » Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:12 am

Vickie, I wouldn’t worry too much about your reaction to this book because Leonard has often said that it’s really only useful to people who find themselves in such a position as he himself did at the time when he wrote it. Everybody has to travel their own path to find answers to the big questions and this book was part of Leonard’s personal trail. Noting that it was written between Recent Songs and Various Positions, some of the songs on those albums could suggest an indication to his thinking concurrent with writing this book which he calls a book of prayer and also “Sunday school”. But he also said quite emphatically that he didn’t wish to be known as a writer of prayers. I’m probably oversimplifying it but I see it as a one off, written in a despairing time of need, then he moved on as best he could. There is an extremely long thread on the forum which I haven’t ever looked at about this book and by its very length would indicate that it’s far from how I’ve quickly described it! Maybe I really should take a peek at it :)

I quoted the first part of psalm 19 as part of my Christmas 2016 design and message in memory of Leonard.
“You let me sing, you lifted me up, you gave my soul a beam to travel on. You folded your distance back into my heart. You drew the tears back to my eyes. You hid me in the mountain of your word.”

Stranger Music is a collection of previous poems but some of them are presented in a different form or added titles to those in the original books, notably from Death of a Lady’s Man and some prose from Beautiful Losers plus there are some previously uncollected (unpublished) poems as well. The book is divided into poems and song lyrics. I think it was meant as a general overall view of LC’s work to date.

....and Mat is so right!
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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vlcoats
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Postby vlcoats » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:39 pm

mat james wrote:Why do you care about your "standing"?
...
Although I was worried some on how my opinion of BOM would be received, my statement about the fan club was made partly in reference to a funny conversation between 4 and Lisa in another thread where Curt was sheepishly admitting that he did not have the actual studio recording of Recent Songs
https://www.leonardcohenforum.com/viewt ... rd#p364906
It is very typical of me to assume everyone would know what I was talking about and would get my tongue in cheek reference.....I told you I was full if myself! :-|

I want to thank you, Matt, for the encouragement to continue on!

Bev, sounds like Stranger Music is well worth my time.

I was also struck by what you called psalm 19. It reminded me of You Got Me Singing, from Popular Problems. By the way, you are right that psalm is better than poem in reference to the entries in Book of Mercy.

Vickie
Edited to fix emoji :roll:
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vlcoats
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's poetry and novels

Postby vlcoats » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:33 pm

Hello again.

After a break to read a couple of guidebooks on Greece and Rome, and a detour (still in progress) to re-read The Emperor Series by Conn Iggulden, I have at last been able to finish reading Stranger Songs, and yes B4, it does seem like a general overall view of Leonard's work so far. It was fun to read the songs again. It took me back to how I would unwrap each of his studio albums for the first time and pause to read the songs as poetry before playing the album for the first time.

As for the poems that were new to me, I have to say that I loved the one called Peace the best. My favorite line is:

"That’s why I’m letting you go
that’s why I’m sitting here in my robes
with my eyes rolled back into my head."


I love surrounding myself with the picture those words draw in my head, although the room feels cold (if that makes sense?)

Next is the Book of Longing. I like this title better than the other "Book of..." so I am wondering if I will feel likewise about the poetry collection.

Vickie

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