THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Everything about Leonard Cohen's new book
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jarkko
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THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby jarkko » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:00 pm

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In honour and in celebration of his father's 84th birthday, Adam shares with Leonard's friends the Foreword he wrote to his father's last work, The Flame:

FOREWORD

This volume contains my father's final efforts as a poet. I wish he had seen it to completion—not because it would have been a better book in his hands, more realized and more generous and more shapely, or because it would have more closely resembled him and the form he had in mind for this offering to his readers, but because it was what he was staying alive to do, his sole breathing purpose at the end. In the difficult period in which he was composing it, he would send "do not disturb" e-mails to the few of us who would regularly drop by. He renewed his commitment to rigorous meditation so as to focus his mind through the acute pain of multiple compression fractures and the weakening of his body. He often remarked to me that, through all the strategies of art and living that he had employed during his rich and complicated life, he wished that he had more completely stayed steadfast to the recognition that writing was his only solace, his truest purpose.

My father, before he was anything else, was a poet. He regarded this vocation, as he records in the notebooks, as some "mission from G-d." (The hyphen indicated his reverence to the deity; his reluctance to write out the divine name, even in English, is an old Jewish custom and is further evidence of the fidelity that he mixed with his freedom.) "Religion, teachers, women, drugs, the road, fame, money... nothing gets me high and offers relief from the suffering like blackening pages, writing." This statement of purpose was also a statement of regret: he offered his literary consecration as an explanation for what he felt was poor fatherhood, failed relationships, and inattention to his finances and health. I am reminded of one of his lesser-known songs (and one of my favorites): "I came so far for beauty, I left so much behind." But not far enough, apparently: in his view he hadn't left enough. And this book, he knew, was to be his last offering.

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As a kid, when I would ask my dad for money to buy sweets at the corner store, he'd often tell me to search the pockets of his blazer for loose bills or change. Invariably, I would find a notebook while going through his pockets. Later in life, when I would ask him if he had a lighter or matches, I would open drawers and find pads of paper and notebooks. Once, when I asked him if he had any tequila, I was directed to the freezer, where I found a frosty, misplaced notebook. Indeed, to know my father was (among many other wondrous things) to know a man with papers, notebooks, and cocktail napkins—a distinguished handwriting on each—scattered (neatly) everywhere. They came from nightstands in hotels, or from 99-cent stores; the ones that were gilded, leather-bound, fancy, or otherwise had a look of importance were never used. My father preferred humble vessels. By the early 1990s, there were storage lockers filled with boxes of his notebooks, notebooks containing a life of dedication to the thing that most defined the man. Writing was his reason for being. It was the fire he was tending to, the most significant flame he fueled. It was never extinguished.

There are many themes and words that repeat throughout my father's work: frozen, broken, naked, fire, and flame. On the back of the first album cover are (as he put it in a later song) the "flames that follow Joan of Arc." "Who by fire?" he famously asked, in a song about fate that wickedly made use of a Jewish prayer. "I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me." That candle was only the first of many kindlings. There are fires and flames, for creation and destruction, for heat and light, for desire and consummation, throughout his work. He lit the flames and he tended to them diligently. He studied and recorded their consequences. He was stimulated by their danger—he often spoke of other people's art as not having enough "danger," and he praised the "excitement of a thought that was in flames."

This fiery preoccupation lasted until the very end. "You want it darker, we kill the flame," he intoned on his last album, his parting album. He died on November 7, 2016. It feels darker now, but the flame was not killed. Each page of paper that he blackened was lasting evidence of a burning soul.

-Adam Cohen, February 2018
1988, 1993: Helsinki||2008: Manchester|Oslo|London O2|Berlin|Helsinki|London RAH|| 2009: New York Beacon|Berlin|Venice|Barcelona|Las Vegas|San José||2010: Salzburg|Helsinki|Gent|Bratislava|Las Vegas|| 2012: Gent|Helsinki|Verona|| 2013: New York|Pula|Oslo|||
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HugoD
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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby HugoD » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:07 pm

Thank you for sharing, this is so beautiful!
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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby holydove » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:48 pm

Thank you, Jarkko, for posting & thank you to Adam for honoring your beloved father by sharing your wonderful insights & very touching memories in this beautifully written foreword. Your words are greatly appreciated & will be cherished.
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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby B4real » Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:12 am

I too will add a thank you to Jarkko for posting this. Also many thanks to Adam for his words dedicated to his father and his father's utmost efforts to complete this last offering for all of us.
As I was reading, these words came instantly to my mind:

“and my father's hand was trembling
with the beauty of the word.”


Also a bit of kismet happenstance here - Adam says one of his favourite songs is Came So Far For Beauty and that was the line we choose to write on LC's memorial bench plaque at Hydra.
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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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby John K. » Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:19 am

This is beautifully written. I am especially taken by this passage:
he wished that he had more completely stayed steadfast to the recognition that writing was his only solace, his truest purpose.
I find it remarkable that Leonard Cohen, who has left a body of work in the English language that stands up to anything written by anyone, ever, would have regrets around not embracing it enough. What more could he have given to the world?
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He's a lazy banker living in a suit

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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby Frank Van Dael » Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:22 pm

Kiitos, Jarkko. And thank you, Mr. Adam Cohen. Thank you so much for sharing.
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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby Mary72 » Sat Sep 29, 2018 11:02 pm

I have just finished reading The Flame. I prefer the canadian cover version published by McClelland & Stewart, is definitely the most loyal to the content of the book.
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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Thu Oct 04, 2018 11:19 am

adam cohen talks to will gompertz about the flame - 07.55 hours approx as broadcast.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172w1fqmrzlc88
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Re: THE FLAME: FOREWORD by Adam Cohen

Postby baronvonbaron » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:46 pm

Adam is as eloquent in writing as he is in real life. I have heard Adam speak and spoken to him hundreds of times in person but this is the first time I have seen him write something besides lyrics and emails and the occasional note. What a beautiful expression of love and admiration he shows for his father. I can't wait for my book to arrive.. :D

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