Leonard and e e cummings

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
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Michel_Griffin
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Leonard and e e cummings

Postby Michel_Griffin » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:54 pm

I am wondering if anybody has published any research on the relationship between Leonard Cohen's poetry and that of e e cummings. The line in "Suzanne" about minds touching bodies seems to me to be an echo - conscious or unconscious - of the opening line of an e e cummings poem, which starts "Lady, i will touch you with my mind." It's impossible that Leonard, poet as he was, would not have read ee cummings. Especially the erotic poems, of which this is number XVII.

Of course, Cohen made the phrase his own, by adding "perfect body". The cummings poem is quite short, so I'll quote it here:

Lady,
I will touch you with my mind.
Touch you and touch and touch
until you give me suddenly a smile,
shyly obscene
(lady I will touch you with my mind).
Touch you, that is all,
lightly and you utterly will
become with infinite care
the poem which I do not write.

Beautiful, isn't it? As, of course, is "Suzanne" ....
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B4real
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Re: Leonard and e e cummings

Postby B4real » Sun Aug 11, 2019 3:22 am

Hi Michel,

This may help you a little bit. The first link - https://www.npr.org/2016/10/21/49881042 ... -monastery
is an interview by NPR with Leonard in which he mentions E E Cummings.
That excerpt is below and appears to confirm Leonard has read Cummings poetry -
COHEN: Well, there are certain - there are certain poems that really do lie very gracefully on the page. For instance, to take an obvious example, if - a poem by E.E. Cummings has a certain graceful display on the page. And some poems just naturally are meant to be absorbed in silence, where the tempo is decided on by the reader. And he could reverse it and forward it and linger.
There are other kinds of lyrics that have their own metrical, imperial advice. And they invite you to move swiftly from line to line. And there are poems that are - of mine - that are always candidates for a song. Sometimes they don't make it and sometimes they do.
And the second link suggests another comparison between the two -
https://www.facebook.com/GordonIrvingWr ... 680316656/
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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Michel_Griffin
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Re: Leonard and e e cummings

Postby Michel_Griffin » Mon Aug 12, 2019 3:55 pm

Many thanks. I am still surprised that I can discover no formal research of the links between Cohen and cummings. Maybe someone should put this forward as a fit subject for a D. Lit. thesis ...?
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LisaLCFan
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Re: Leonard and e e cummings

Postby LisaLCFan » Mon Aug 12, 2019 5:22 pm

Michel_Griffin wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 3:55 pm
...I am still surprised that I can discover no formal research of the links between Cohen and cummings. Maybe someone should put this forward as a fit subject for a D. Lit. thesis ...?
I suspect that the links are tenuous at best, and any formal research would uncover nothing more than a few words or phrases in common, with no way of knowing if they were deliberate, conscious borrowings by Leonard, or purely subconscious incorporations of something he'd once read and forgotten (or a mix of both). Maybe a brief journal article could be written on the topic, but I think it would be a stretch for a thesis, unless it included links to many other writers and sources which may have influenced Leonard, and which I believe to be rather abundant in his work. (There have been articles written on some of these apparent influences in Leonard's work, some of which I've come across over the years, but offhand I cannot direct you to any of them.)

I am in no way suggesting that Leonard's work is not unique and original, because he had a most distinctive voice and a style all his own, regardless of any minor similarities one can find to the works of others. Leonard has always acknowledged, in one way or another, how deeply he has been influenced by various things he has read and learned, and that some of those things are reflected in his work is not really a surprise. One would be hard pressed to read anything by any writer (who is also an avid reader) without finding some "links" and similarities in words and phrases to other works. This likely applies to all the arts: people are influenced consciously and unconsciously by everything they experience, and there will almost always be elements traceable to one or more of those experiences in an artist's work, including bits of pieces derived and absorbed from the work of others.
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Michel_Griffin
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Re: Leonard and e e cummings

Postby Michel_Griffin » Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:17 pm

Thanks for this Lisa. I agree that all writers are - consciously or unconsciously - influenced by everything they read. And we know that Leonard was extremely well-read! I was just struck by the consonance of Suzanne and the cummings poem and wondered if anyone had uncovered any other examples ...
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LisaLCFan
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Re: Leonard and e e cummings

Postby LisaLCFan » Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:50 pm

Michel_Griffin wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:17 pm
Thanks for this Lisa. I agree that all writers are - consciously or unconsciously - influenced by everything they read. And we know that Leonard was extremely well-read! I was just struck by the consonance of Suzanne and the cummings poem and wondered if anyone had uncovered any other examples ...
Oh, for sure! I actually always enjoy finding such examples, in literature, music, etc, when a word or phrase or other such element reminds me -- or is a clear reflection -- of something I've read/heard/seen before. Many times, I've quickly looked up a poem, paragraph, or a piece of music to verify that I wasn't just imagining it!

Cheers!

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