I almost went to bed
the four white violets
I put in the button-hole
of your green sweater
and how i kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I’d
never been your lover
Leonard Cohen - Anthem
I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.
If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.
Leonard Cohen, Poem (from Let Us Compare Mythologies)
Do not act out words. Never act out words. Never try to leave the floor when you talk about flying. Never close your eyes and jerk your head to one side when you talk about death. Do not fix your burning eyes on me when you speak about love. If you want to impress me when you speak about love put your hand in your pocket or under your dress and play with yourself. If ambition and the hunger for applause have driven you to speak about love you should learn how to do it without disgracing yourself or the material.
This is an interior landscape. It is inside. It is private. Respect the privacy of the material. These pieces were written in silence. The courage of the play is to speak them. The discipline of the play is not to violate them. Let the audience feel your love of privacy even though there is no privacy. Be good whores. The poem is not a slogan. It cannot advertise you. It cannot promote your reputation for sensitivity. You are not a stud. You are not a killer lady. All this junk about the gangsters of love. You are students of discipline. Do not act out the words. The words die when you act them out, they wither, and we are left with nothing but your ambition.
Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.
The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers’ Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality.” — Leonard Cohen, ‘How to Speak Poetry’ from Death of a Lady’s Man
“He never described himself as a poet or his work as poetry. The fact that the lines do not come to the edge of the page is no guarantee. Poetry is a verdict, not an occupation. He hated to argue about the techniques of verse. The poem is a dirty, bloody, burning thing that has to be grabbed first with bare hands. Once the fire celebrated Light, the dirt Humility, the blood Sacrifice. Now the poets are professional fire-eaters, freelancing at any carnival. The fire goes down easily and honours no one in particular.” — Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game
“Her hair and his beard are hopelessly tangled.
When he puts his mouth against her shoulder
she is uncertain whether her shoulder
has given or received the kiss.
All her flesh is like a mouth.” — Leonard Cohen, You Have the Lovers, from The Spice-Box of Earth
“my body has become a museum:
this part remembered because of someone’s mouth,
this because of a hand,
this of wetness, this of heat.” — Leonard Cohen, The Flowers that I Left in the Ground, from The Spice-Box of Earth
Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love
Leonard Cohen - Is This What You Wanted
“As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armour themselves against wonder.” — Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game
Leonard Cohen - Famous Blue Raincoat
Leonard Cohen - First We Take Manhattan
“The world was being hoaxed by a disciplined melancholy. All the sketches made a virtue of longing. All that was necessary to be loved widely was to publish one’s anxieties. The whole enterprise of art was a calculated display of suffering.” —
Leonard Cohen, “The Favourite Game”
“With one hand on the hexagram and one hand on the girl
I balance on a wishing well that all men call the world.
We are so small between the stars, so large against the sky,
and lost among the subway crowds I try to catch your eye.” — Leonard Cohen, Stories of the Street
“Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore.” — Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers