Poem or Song? – the words of Leonard Cohen

After being blown away by the power of Neil Young this week, I am now hotly anticipating the arrival of fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen. He has not toured these shores since 1985 when this Lost Shark was just a pup and he has made no secret that this is the final international tour, so to put it bluntly, I am crawling out of my skin to see him.  


With so much talk on the site recently about poetry and song lyrics I thought it was a great time to post this interview with Cohen from 2006. With eight collections of poetry and eleven albums to his name, there is arguably no one better to talk about lyrics and poetry. Interestingly, Cohen has never really accepted the title of poet or singer:

“I had the title poet, and maybe I was one for a while. Also, the title singer was kindly accorded me, even though I could barely carry a tune.”

What cannot be doubted, is that his words have mesmerised more than four generations of fans and often defy genre. Here Cohen talks about the different tempo of poetry and song, the inescapable lousiness of growing old, autobiographical writing and claims himself to be ‘one of the fakes.’ As always he illumiates.

Read the interview here.

Then check out this ‘spoken word’ performance of A Thousand Kisses Deep from the recent tour.

Oh yes… I am crawling out of my skin!


Filed under interviews/artist profiles

6 responses to “Poem or Song? – the words of Leonard Cohen

  1. Jacqueline

    Umm…spoken word? No. That was pure poetry, intense and powerful without any hoopla. I’m jealous of your LC ticket!

    • gnunn

      I love how passionate you are about the word poetry JT. I will be sure to give you a full review of the show! Wish you could be there…

  2. Woo hoo.. we get him soon too! Clutching my wee ticket to my chest.

    jaysus! how hot is that Thousand Kisses Deep performance.. What a way to start my day..

    My tenant told the most gorgeous stories about him and their time together in Pune, the most classic line of which was when she said a number of people had tried to ‘set them up’ as a couple and she said “well, he was interesting, but you could see he had SO much baggage” Much funnier if you know my tenant.

    I’ve always loved the combination of insight and humility in his writing. Then that incredible strength of presence when he performs.


    • gnunn

      We will have to compare concert stories Amanda… and yeah, that reading of Thousand Kisses is making the days between now and Feb 3 seem all the more longer. Your tenant sounds like she has led a wildly interesting life.

  3. Curtis Faville

    Often, when I read a Cohen poem, I have the feeling that his sense of poetry is fairly pedestrian, but frequently he rises above the occasion and makes a potent image or statement.

    There has always been this tension between his songs and his “real” poems. I’m not sure it helped him either way. Maybe a hybrid? Many poets aspire to be songwriters, but few songwriters essay serious poetry. Why is that? I think Cohen nails it when he says the “time” of the poem is casual, stretched out, meditative, whilst a song runs through and doesn’t repeat–it’s a continuous, passing phenomenon.

    • gnunn

      I think in many ways Cohen defies both forms… sits somewhere on his own, a unique entity. Love that quote about the time of a poem being casual, stretched out, meditative. Classic Cohen.

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