The Flame-discussion thread

Everything about Leonard Cohen's new book
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Joe Way
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The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Joe Way » Thu Oct 04, 2018 1:14 am

I posted the following to a group of University of Wisconsin sports fans who I consider friends. It contains some personal history of my love of Leonard and his works, but I thought it might be a good start to a discussion of this wonderful book of poems and notebook entries.

Just received the book today. It is terrific-even though I saw the electronic copy, the one you can hold in your hand is the best.

It was 1968 when I went with my great Aunt Laura, who was governess to the Uihlein family girls back in the 50's & 60's. She took me to Wausau and I bought Leonard's book, "Selected Poems, 1956-1968" at a book store. I was either a sophmore or junior in high school. I loved that book! It changed my life and opened me up to so many ideas that I wouldn't have been exposed to in our small town. I also puked on the book-which I still have without the cover-I cleaned it up some but I had to buy another one to replace it from some collector in Toronto, I also still remember reading a poem, in our childhood bedroom to my brother in our little room with two single beds who had just come back from Viet Nam. Bill said he had perused the book and this was his favorite poem.

"Travel"

Loving you flesh to flesh, I often thought
Of traveling penniless to some mud throne
Where a master might instruct me how to plot
My life away from pain, to love alone
In the bruiseless embrace of stone and lake.

Lost in the fields of your hair I was never lost
Enough to lose a a way I had to take;
Breathless beside your body I could not exhaust
The will that forbid me contract, vow,
Or promise, and often while you slept
I looked in awe beyond your beauty.

Now
I know why many men have stopped and wept
Half-way between the loves they leave and seek,
And wondered if travel leads them anywhere--
Horizons keep the soft line of your cheek,

The windy sky's a locket for your hair

Now so many years later with so many connections to Leonard and his death still so present in my life, I peruse his last book of poetry. I'm struck by his poem "Lambchops" as we ate at Moishes the last time we were in Montreal.


Lambchops

thinking of those lamb chops
at Moishe's the other night

we all taste good to one another
most bodies are good to eat
even reptiles and insects

even the poisonous lutefisk of Norway
buried in the dirt a million years before serving
and the poisonous blowfish of Japan
can be prepared
to insure reasonable risks
at the table

if the crazy god did not want us to eat one another
why make our flesh so sweet

I heard it on the radio
a happy rabbit at the rabbit farm
saying to the animal psychic

don't be sad
it's lovely here
they're so good to us

we're not the only ones
said the rabbit
comforting her

everyone gets eaten
as the rabbit said
to the animal psychic

2006


But my favorite, is the exchange between Peter Dale Scott (b. 1929). a poet and scholar, who is a Professor Emeritus at UC-Berkley. He is the son of F. R. Scott who was Leonard's tutor at McGill. Scott sent Leonard an inscribed copy of his most recent volume of poems, "Walking on Darkness." The subsequent email exchange is recorded with the final text message relayed by Rebecca De Mornay, the night before Leonard's death.

Leonard (from "You Want It Darker." Sept. 21 2016)

"You want it darker, we kill the flame."

Peter (Inscription "Walking on Darkness, " Oct. 1, 2026)

"If you want it darker
This book is not for you
I have always wanted it lighter
And I think God does too.

Leonard (October 3rd, 2016)

who says "i" want it darker?
who says the "you" is "me"?
god saved you in harbor
while millions died at sea

you and god are buddies
you know his wishes now
here's broken Job all bloodied
who met him brow to brow

there is a voice so powerful
so easily unheard
those that hear may hate it all
but follow every word

if you have not been asked
to squat above the dead
be happy that you're deaf
not something worse instead

he will make it darker
he will make it light
according to his torah
which leonard did not write


Peter (October 4, 2016)

Who says I know God's wishes?
I've not met brow to brow
never had a chance to glimpse him
and never hope to now

But we who were raised in harbors
while others burned from war
have been free to choose which voices
made us what we are.

Leonard (October 4, 2016)

That was great fun
Be well, dear friends.
Much love,
Eliezer

Leonard (November 6, 2016, 3 p.m. in response to a photo of Peter and Sophia De Mornay-O"Neal):

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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ScottM
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Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:13 pm

Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby ScottM » Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:30 am

Thanks for this personal insight Joe. Poignant, funny and moving. For me, you’ve captured your enthusiasm for this publication, and you admiration for Leonard’s work perfectly. Your highlighted choices here have further whetted my appetite for more of “The Flame”.

See you down the road….
2008: Dublin/London (O2)-Jul 17/London (O2)-Nov 13/London (RAH)/Brighton
2009: Liverpool/Madrid/Barcelona
2010: Sligo x2/Lille/Las Vegas x2
2012: Ghent/Amsterdam/London x2/Dublin Sep 11&12/Paris Sep 28
2013: London (O2) Jun 21/Brighton/Manchester/Cardiff/Birmingham/Amsterdam
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Joe Way
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Location: Wisconsin, USA

Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby Joe Way » Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:01 am

Thank you, Scott-that was very touching.

I'm struck now by Leonard's poem, "Antique Song"

"Too old, too old to play the part,
Too old, God only knows!
I'll keep the little silver heart,
The red and folded rose.

And in the arms of someone strong
You'll have what we had none.
I'll finish up my winter song
For you. It's almost done.

But oh! the kisses that we kissed,
That swept me to the shore
Of seas where hardly I exist,
Except to kiss you more.

I have the little silver heart,
The red and folded rose,
The one you gave me at the start,
The other at the close.

He waited for you all night long.
Go run to him, go run.
I'll finish up my winter song,
For you, it's almost done."

I'm seventeen years younger than Leonard (and my mother was seventeen years older than him). Between the two of them, it has given me a blessed perspective on age and aging. Although I didn't discover him until his early 30's, I still feel like I've followed the major part of his career. His early poems and songs made me so want to be like him to be successful with the opposite sex. Now as I go into my later years-these poems and songs about the touching aspects of the aging process, strike me very hard.

As Leonard always said, he never found that singular lover-and I think he was thinking of Yeats and Maud Gonne which directed so much of Yeats' poetry through his entire life. I read recently that the lines in Joni Mitchell's, "A Case of You"-

"Go to him, stay with him if you can,
But be prepared to bleed."-

was a direct quote from Leonard's Mom to her.

I've been blessed to have a "love of my life" and it does make me a little sad that Leonard never found his. On the otherhand maybe we are blessed that we have the poems about the lack of it.
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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blonde madonna
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Re: The Flame-discussion thread

Postby blonde madonna » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:48 am

Joe, I appreciate your perspective on Leonard’s writing. I am waiting for my copy of The Flame but looking forward to sharing my impressions with others.

It’s interesting you mention Yeats and Maude, maybe Leonard didn’t recognise his Maude, or saw her too late, or the timing wasn’t right? Then again, work and relationships are a tricky thing, time spent with Maude is time away from writing that love song, the one that will be an anthem of forgiving, a manual for living with defeat, a cry above the suffering, a sacrifice recovering, that the world needs.

“the art of longing’s over and it’s never coming back”

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