Thinking of Leonard Cohen


by Hazel Field
Portrait by Hazel Field

I first encountered Leonard Cohen in the ’80s during the music television experience and ‘I’m Your Man’ seemed to morph between melody and Cohen’s iconic face. But memory isn’t always reliable. Sometimes it tricks on recall and still the impression remains vivid. 

Years later an interest in poetry led to a second and more reliable encounter. My appreciation felt like a kind of binary experience where I took to the lyrics & then the changes. Or was it the melody before the words? Anyhow, it had little to do with me but rather having been drawn toward the beguiling personality as much as the verse. His career as singer, writer and his mainstream & commercial success defy conventional wisdom as he magically redefines the role of contemporary poet. What appears as a natural, almost organic public output is surely an implausible balancing act for others and his poems’ most private thoughts seem impervious to commercial exposure. Then there’s the phenomena where songs are so celebrated they take on a life of their own and become universal standards. Hallelujah’s multi verse complexity is counter balanced with its perfectly weighted hymnal changes speaking across generations. But to me it’s the private experience that’s the thing, something like finding a guitar in the back of the cupboard with a songbook in the case – and invariably it’s Dylan or..Leonard Cohen.


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