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H.M. in Book of Longing?

Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 6:52 am
by jim
Can anyone tell me the full name of H.M. from Book of Longing? I remember an earlier posting on the Files about this person, I think it was him, but don't remember his name, and havn't been able to find it.


Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:46 am
by tomsakic
Henry Moscovitch, 1941-2004

Published first book of poetry, The Serpent Ink, in 1956, in McGill Poetry series introduced earlier that year with Leonard's own first book.
MOSCOVITCH, Henry. New Poems. (Oakville, ON): Mosaic Press/Valley Editions, (1982). Pp. 118. 8vo, illustrated light brown card covers. A collection of the Montreal poet's poems. Includes Leonard Cohen's "Stanzas for H.M."
Cover art was done by Mort Rosengarten, poems edited with help from LC, who also wrote a preface, Stanzas for HM.

Special to The Globe and Mail
Friday, December 31, 2004

MONTREAL -- He was an engaging scholar and poet who published his first
book of verse when he was 15. Brilliant, brash, charismatic and
loveable, Henry Moscovitch was a prodigy whose youthful potential was
nipped in the bud when symptoms of schizophrenia suddenly advanced
during his twenties.

In spite of his affliction, Mr. Moscovitch remained inspired by his
muse. Unfortunately, the compulsion to destroy his compositions was as
strong as his desire to put pen to paper. Were it not for concerned
friends who regularly made copies of his poems before he could tear
them up, much of his work would have been for naught.

In 1982, the salvaged poems were gathered together in a collection
published by Mosaic Press titled New Poems. Leonard Cohen, a long-time
friend, contributed the foreword to the edition. Mr. Cohen's expression
of admiration and respect, written in verse, described Mr. Moscovitch
as Canada's greatest poet: ". . . in wilds of poverty and solitude; I
thank you for the years you spent alone with nothing to hang onto but a
mood of Glory, searching words that Love could not elude."

The son of Morris and Hilda Moscovitch, he was born in Montreal. A
brilliant student, young Henry appeared destined for greatness. He
attended Herzliah High School where the poet and teacher Irving Layton
recognized a prodigious talent. Mr. Layton, who founded Contact Press
along with fellow lyricists Louis Dudek and Raymond Souster was
instrumental in publishing Mr. Moscovitch's first book of poetry, The
Serpent Ink in 1956.

Although Mr. Dudek and Mr. Souster were reluctant to throw their
support behind a precocious 15-year-old, Irving Layton was unwavering
in his support and pushed to see the book published. A technician with
the pen and a Montreal Rimbaud, Mr. Moscovitch's early poems are a
mixture of rebellion and charm. Compositions found in The Serpent Ink,
such as Jet, incorporate a sharp and arresting verse.

Whistling through the noonday


This sleek steel god swiftly flies

Clear to our astounded eyes then


Itself a thick white haze

Soon to reappear and then rise

Like the paltry spit I spat up high

In the early 1960s, Mr. Moscovitch began studying political science at
McGill University. Poet and University of Ottawa professor Seymour
Mayne, who attended McGill during the same period, described his friend
as a large man with a booming voice and eyes that were fixed and
engaged. "He was a bold adventurer, opinionated, extremely well-read
and thoughtful. He was unwavering in his convictions and assured of his
own talent. He was filled with bravado, but he was simultaneously
winsome and admirable."

Retired professor Michael Gnarowski was an editor at the student
magazine Yes at McGill in the 1950s. He laughed when he recalled some
of Mr. Moscovitch's antics. "I remember once he handed me a manila
envelope filled with his poems. 'You should publish these instead of
the shit you normally publish in your magazine.' Had it been anyone
else I might have been offended by the conceit, but Henry was such a
likeable and charismatic person it didn't upset me at all."

After graduating from McGill, Mr. Moscovitch won a Woodrow Wilson
Scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York. It was during
his stay there, at the height of the counter-culture revolution, that
he was introduced to LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide. By all
accounts, repeated use of the hallucinogenic seemed to have triggered a
genetic predisposition towards schizophrenia. After completing his
studies in New York he returned to Montreal and began teaching Marxism
at McGill, but symptoms of the disease were already beginning to show.

Michael Malus, a physician, writer and close friend of Mr. Moscovitch
said that the disease often strikes adults in the prime of their lives
and renders them a shadow of their former selves. "It ravages you
spiritually, in terms of your identity and self-esteem. But Henry was a
regal guy, in spite of that, like a Moses of the street."

Although frequently hospitalized, Mr. Moscovitch's downward spiral
didn't undermine his capacities as a poet. Often he would call up
friends to recite a poem he'd written before destroying it. Elaine
Malus recalled how he would sometimes phone three or four times a day
with his latest verse. In 1982, Dr. Malus, Montreal sculpture Morten
Rosengarten and other caretakers of Mr. Moscovitch's compositions put
together an anthology of his poetry titled New Poems. It had been
nearly 20 years since he published his previous book of poetry, The
Laughing Storm. The minimalist style of his new, untitled poems
incorporated Zen simplicity, a confessional tone and beautiful, painful

Time goes by

my little poems

like smoke

from a fireplace.

You are getting

better as the rich

fabric of these times

supports you like a base.

Bloom and grow


wild flowers


of my diseased


A review of Mr. Moscovitch's work was featured in a 1983 issue of
Canadian Literature. Critic George Woodcock wrote admiringly: "Reading
Moscovitch's poems I am reminded, by their form as well as their mood,
of those modest fountains in Japanese hermitages in which a thin,
unbroken and oil-smooth jet of waters falls into the mirror of an old
stone basin."

Howard Aster, life-long friend of Mr. Moscovitch and publisher of his
last book of poems, described the stripped-down style of later verse as
the poetic idiom distilled to its skeletal form. "The lines are no more
than two or three words, absolutely astonishing and totally

Mr. Moscovitch's final years were spent in a tiny a rooming house. He
had grown more and more withdrawn and increasingly avoided contact with
friends and admirers.

Henry Lawrence Moscovitch

was born on Aug. 11, 1941, in Montreal. He died on Nov. 1, 2004. He was
63. He is survived by
sisters Myra Greenstone, Joy

Kellman and Esther Schrier.
Thank you to LC for informations, recollections and the obituary. Very soon this all, and more (incl. poems) will be published on

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:39 am
by jim
thankyou tom.

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:32 pm
by tomsakic
My copy of HM's New Poems arrived this morning. No Mort Rosengarten's dusk jacket as it was described, but Dominique Isserman's picture of Henry.
Great poetry, I browsed many pages without any order. It's more big number of short fragments, but really great poetry. I think quite few poems are directed to LC. Highly recommended.

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 2:46 pm
by lizzytysh
Hi Tom ~

Just some clarification needed here.
I think quite few poems are directed to LC.
Did you leave out the word "a" and meant "quite a few," so it's a very good thing?
Did you use "quite" to emphasize "few," the same as you'd say "very few," to perhaps contrast with your expectation that there would be more, and hence it's a bit of a disappointment for you in that way?


~ Lizzy

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:50 pm
by tomsakic
Quite a few.

I didn't expect any conection with LC. But most of poems were written on Hydra, or mention that poet (HM) is on Mediterranian, far from Montreal, or he is in Montreal, waiting for his friend - also the poet - to return from Hydra. Some poems mention how poet (HM) sends his poems to "him" on Hydra, or contrary - how he (HM) just read his new book to see what he's doing far from Montreal, on Hydra. In one poem this "he" to whom the poem spekas is even called "L".

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:03 pm
by tomsakic
from page 43

And you writing
your Greek poems
under a clear sky,
the red earth beneath
your feet.
I am caught in Montreal
struggling to get
this out
while it rains
and rains.
Where shall I go
for clearer lines,
more ample forms?


from page 83

He comes to Montreal
quite often
to see his mother
and some friends
he doesnt' quite know.
He doesn't write
when he is gone
and I spend the days
in idle loneliness.
Soon he will
and what I want
to know is
when will I see
him again
as our graves
loom larger,
as our skeletons
stretch through our skins.


from page 94

I called L
this morning
but he is not home.
Must be busy
with some girl
as he makes
his way to dust.
Instead of seeing
him I sit
in this restaurant
waiting for him
to return.
Nothing's happening.
Nothing moves my bones.


For closing, first and last poem in the book:

from page 9

I train myself to
write almost daily.
I eat my bacon and eggs.
I invest in the lottery.
I dress warm when it rains.
I put on my overshoes
for the snow.
I live in a lonely room
where I awake
from dreams of you.

from page 118

Here are my poems
flown across
the Mediterranean
to your doorstep
O poet.
Pick up your
mail and find
me there
still ranting of ice
and snow.
And the girl is far away.

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:04 pm
by lizzytysh
Thanks, Tom... due to time constraints, this was a thread I read backwards. I've just now read what you placed in the Quote box. I remember hearing about this man here on the Forum. As always, too, Layton's fervour is revealed:
Although Mr. Dudek and Mr. Souster were reluctant to throw their
support behind a precocious 15-year-old, Irving Layton was unwavering
in his support and pushed to see the book published.
These poems, the ones you've given are, at minimum, touching. Even more, I'm sure, with further reading.

Oh, dear... while I was writing this, you were posting that, immediately above, some poems relating to Leonard. Now, to read backwards, again.
Soon he will
and what I want
to know is
when will I see
him again
as our graves
loom larger,
as our skeletons
stretch through our skins.
Powerful and graphic; particularly, the way of expressing the italicized [by me] lines.

~ Lizzy

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:07 pm
by tomsakic
Of course, L could be Layton also (who also spent much time on the Mediterranian).

There are 118 pages of such fragments in the book. Much of them dedicated to writing pad and the procces of writing as the cure itself. Obviously it was his only way to keep a segment of the mind sane.

Add. from page 33

I decided
I'd rather save
my money
than visit you
on the island.
Hydra is a British
war port
and the grey
clouds of war
will soon be upon us.
The Mediterranean
will be dark
with warships
upon it.
I am moving
towards my
destiny in
with a thousand
in my pocket.

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:24 pm
by lizzytysh
Yes, you're right... it could be Layton. My sense, however, is that when someone initializes for brevity and/or a more intimate tone, they tend to do it with their first name, rather than their surname... so, my inclination would be toward its being Leonard.

Do you happen to know whether there were ever any considerations of homosexuality with him?

This particular one has a wafting flavour of intimate attachment, including what could potentially be considered a grudging acceptance of Leonard's interest in women ~ consider the line "with some girl" [the "some" might be considered bordering on resentment], particularly conjunct the following lines "as he makes / his way to dust" [for me, I get the sense that this endeavour of being "busy" might be considered, by him, as a waste of time... i.e. "dust" and with death also being "dust," it seems to suggest that there might be a 'better' use of his time that he could be making. "as he makes / his way to dust" also seems to have a double entendre with the word "makes" ['making out' with a woman].

He could be feeling that at least Leonard's writing poetry would be a much better, more productive, use of his time, and if it were being spent that way, might not evoke thoughts of "dust." Or, it also could be that he was simply very death obsessed, so most everything was viewed through that microscope. Beginning with line 8, through the end of the poem, he appears to be very wrapped up in what Leonard is doing and how he feels as a result of Leonard's absence that day... nothing motivates him to even move. Just that zoned-out feeling of longing that we all seem to experience from time to time, the kind that brings a sense of powerlessness with it, and can render us immobile.

Anyway, it's not in any way crucial that this be viewed through a homosexual lens. I just couldn't help but consider the possibilities with it.
I called L
this morning
but he is not home.
Must be busy
with some girl
as he makes
his way to dust.
Instead of seeing
him I sit
in this restaurant
waiting for him
to return.
Nothing's happening.
Nothing moves my bones.

~ Lizzy

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:27 pm
by lizzytysh
Well, you did it, again. Added a poem. Perhaps, I should just try walking backwards today. I've heard it's particularly beneficial in some way to do that, but I can't remember how... how it's beneficial, that is :wink: .

I've just read it. It's interesting how he created such vivid pictures with so few words, but I know that a very similar thought was already expressed in the first Quote box. Even so, I concur.

Allow me to clarify that when I said, " . . . of intimate attachment . . . ," I'm not suggesting that it was reciprocal or, at some point, had already manifested in some manner... I mean that there seems to be a lot of directed focus toward Leonard [my sense of who "L" would be]; though, this could also be simply because he found Leonard's friendship very comforting, and Leonard had a deeper understanding of these 'mental health' matters, as well. Leonard also clearly believed in him, as did Layton... so, in these senses, this attachment could be to either/both of them, and not homosexual in orientation, at all.

~ Lizzy

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:23 pm
by tomsakic
More than half of poems (and better than these ones) are adressed to a woman, girls etc., about waiting for, dreaming of, and similar emotions. Many fragments folows the same theme as in sequence (waiting for someone's return, writing in a new pad, poems as cure from doctors, Mediterranian, looking for the poems' subjects, the writing itself...). Of course, it being in English language, many those You could be understood as male, but I don't feel so. Some of them are quite beautiful. I have also strong feeling that many fragments are adressed to some "you" who was very strong presence and support in his life, probably companion, but surely a woman.

This one is also of interest (page 24, uncharacteristically long):

Here beside
the Mediterranian
your books
as my guide
(I do not read
other than
what you've written)
I take shape
and blossom
like the red
rocks that form
my soil.

The blue sea
the little island
brings peace
as once I was
weary with the world.
The bright light
adds youth to me
and I awake
from my deep slumber
in Canada's bones
on faraway shores.

Take me warm
and let the fury
that is in me
take shape
like the dark
clouds of war
I see on your


I don't recall Leonard's exact quote, but I think it was something that "lunatics are extremely good company". Recall Daphne Richardson who killed herself in the hospital, with whose drawings and writings Leonard designed Live Songs.

Henry Moscovitch was mentioned on Forum earlier in threads about McGill's Poetry Series, in posts by humanponysss2000,
humanponysss2000 wrote:There were other poets associated with that series, if not actually published in it: Kenneth Hertz, as I mentioned, and Henry Moscovitch. Seymour Mayne would be a source of information.

I hesitate to talk more, except to say there was a very high level of suicide and insanity, some of it related to dangerous drugs which were circulating.
Of course, in same context (that thread, or separate thread, titled "Steve Smith" - viewtopic.php?t=6546) we were discussing Steve Smith, another poet who died very young and to whom LC feels gratitude, and who also debuted in same McGill series. Obviously the connection of that generation, Dudek's boys and girls, was very strong.

So my strong impression is that LC was very important person to Henry Moscovitch. Imagine yourself being in and out of mental institutions, being a poet beside, and having LC to help you as he thinks you speak to God, as he wrote about Henry's poetry (in BoL).

The similar situation is with Philipe Thetrault, the Montreal poet who's usuallly mentioned as Montreal homeless person, in and out of mental hospitals. There is that recent film of him with LC appearing; Kim saw Tetrault when he visiting LC in Montreal, and recently I found the interview from 1985 where Leonard was asked about young poets, does he follows their work. He mentioned Tetrault as one of great young poets. I guess his attachment to troubled poets is very strong. Tetrault's family mentioned how important Cohen's suport is for Philippe, and there was few interviews with LC recently, done in Montreal, where Tetrault appears in various sitautions around Leonard (asking for help on LC's kitchen door, meeting on the street).

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:31 pm
by lizzytysh
Hi Tom ~

I've only read your first paragraph here, but before I continue, just want to add that this is such a great example of how viewing things out of context can result in such an altered picture. When he said that he awoke from "dreaming of you," I took that to mean Leonard... can't remember why. Now, I'll go and finish reading what you've written. Thanks.

~ Lizzy

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:34 pm
by tomsakic
I added segment about Tetrault to my previous post, as I recalled him as another example of Leonard's connection to troubled Montreal poets. Those people are closer to God's language, I guess that's also Leonard's idea, in Russia they called them "God's fools", yurodivi.

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:40 pm
by lizzytysh
Yes, I saw that... thanks; and was thinking [just before I got to that part of your sentence] that he was the same man who came to Leonard's door when Kim was visiting. Yes... Leonard definitely feels a kinship and deep caring for troubled souls and compromised minds.

Reading this last poem, it seems Henry may have even been reading a lot of the poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen [the poetry of who suddenly dropped off, as you became busier with other things that needed tending :wink: ].

I love that Russian perspective, even to the extent that there exists a specific term for it. It is often said that schizophrenia may be misinterpreted in some cases, and that they, in fact, may be messengers/vehicles, providing a unique link to G~D and to be speaking, as you've said here, "closer to God's language."

~ Lizzy