Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leonard Cohen: Staying Power

Cohen back in the day.

I’ve just begun a reread of my tattered copy of Beautiful Losers and notice here online that Leonard Cohen is bringing out a new album for his 80th birthday.

Cohen's tenacity is a wonder and gift. He has given us so much--the ground he’s covered, the class and grace with which he’s covered it; no one compares.

In early celebration of the singer’s birthday, I’m posting some lines and videos. Not to be missed.


I. Cohen in a 1966 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Brilliant:

II. Performing “Hallelujah” in 2009:

III. Cohen’s poem “French and English” from the 1978 book Death of a Ladies Man:

I think you are fools to speak French
It is a language which invites the mind
to rebel against itself causing inflamed ideas
grotesque postures and a theoretical approach
to common body functions. It ordains the soul
in a tacky priesthood devoted to the salvation
of a failed erection. It is the language
of cancer as it annexes the spirit and
installs a tumor in every honeycomb
Between the rotten teeth of French are incubated
the pettiest notions of destiny and the shabbiest
versions of glory and the dreariest dogma of change
ever to pollute the simplicity of human action
French is a carnival mirror in which the
brachycephalic idiot is affirmed and encouraged
to compose a manifesto on the destruction of the sideshow

I think you are fools to speak English
I know what you are thinking when you speak English
You are thinking piggy English thoughts
you sterilized swine of a language that has no genitals
You are peepee and kaka and nothing else
and therefore the lovers die in all your songs
You can’t fool me you cradle of urine
where Jesus Christ was finally put to sleep
and even the bowels of Satan cannot find
a decent place to stink in your flat rhythms of ambition and disease
English, I know you, you are frightened by saliva
your adventure is the glass bricks of sociology
you are German with a license to kill

I hate you but it is not in English
I love you but it is not in French
I speak to the devil but it is not about your punishment
I speak to the table but it is not about your plan
I kneel between the legs of the moon
in a vehicle of perfect stuttering
and you dare to interview me on the matter
of your loathsome destinies
you poor boobies of the north
who have set out for heaven with your mouths on fire
Surrender now surrender to each other
your loveliest useless aspects
and live with me in this and other voices
like the wind harps you were meant to be
Come and sleep in the mother tongue
and be awakened by a virgin
(O dead-hearted turns of particular speech)
be awakened by a virgin
into a sovereign state of common grace

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