Monday, March 10, 2008

New Skin For The Old Ceremony

Perhaps this was serendipity. A serendipitous moment whence unseen, unbeknownst forces in the Universe interrelate events to coincide for a purpose. Or maybe simply the subconscious regurgitating; liken the time I named my Daughter Violet, only later to learn that was my adopted Aunts’ middle name. Many of us have close relationships with those whom the Family has adopted as kin. Could I had known her middle name prior and just forgotten such over the many years? On the other hand; expect for giving emphasis to the possibility of preconceived inklings, neither has anything to do with the current unfolding events. This happenstance begins with a song. By chance, Tuesday night I was one of the many millions of People watching sing his rendition of the song on . I probably would not have thought any more of the song if not for a post by entitled Revolution, and Hallelujah, at her site Wonderland or Not. She states:

“In the meantime I admit to learning something from American idol last night. I learned that I need to listen to the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”, a song I hadn’t listened to in years, ( No I never watched the OC though I was made aware last night that it was used for that nighttime soap opera) more often. So see, it was worth it.

I, along with at least a million others, was on line last night, thanks to the guy who sang it on Idol, looking for every version of that song we could find. The Buckley version is better than the Rufus Wainwright version, but I am fond of the A cappella Imogen Heap cover. And who knew I actually would see Leonard Cohen himself doing that song, thanks to you tube – actually it is pretty awesome, If not for Idol it never would have happened.”

There it was serendipitously , the name Leonard Cohen. Two events simultaneously coincided; yet had I read Coopers’ post first, thus his name inadvertently stuck in my subconscious as I rented movies that day or did I first rent the movie about him prior to reading her post? Unsure; one fact was emerging, the Universe seemed to be working in the direction of introducing me to an interesting Poet - I admittedly never heard of.

: "Leonard Norman Cohen, CC (born September 21, 1934 in Westmount, Montreal, Quebec) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963.

Cohen's songs and poetry have influenced many other singer-songwriters, and more than a thousand renditions of his work have been recorded."

The movie I rented was, (a film written and directed by ). A documentary mostly featuring Leonard Cohen’s poetic songs with performances by U2, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Beth Orton, and Leonard Cohen himself. “1 The bulk of the performances here were captured at Cohen tribute concerts staged by industry vet Hal Willner in Brighton, England in May 2004 and Sydney in January 2005… U2's collaboration with Cohen, "Tower of Song," was recorded separately at the tiny club the Slipper Room on New York's Lower East Side.”

As for the movie itself; was I educated – Yes, as for liking the film – regretfully I’d have to say no, though I can understand the Director’s idea to present the documentary in such a manner. Perhaps fashioned from Leonard Cohen’s Montreal poetic critiques with a close net of Poets including , , . Notwithstanding; I am deeply enthralled by Leonard Cohen’s poetic work.

Ironically, Cooper also writes about Democracy in her post Revolution, and Hallelujah, quoting a few lyrics from the Beatles Song - Revolution. I say ironically because one of Leonard Cohen’s poetic songs is about ().

Several of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics can raise more than a once Catholic school gal’s eyebrows. In the movie he speaks about Janis Joplin and the song . Stating, “I had written about Janis Joplin.” One is then left to assume or misinterpret that the song is about her:

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.
Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.
Ah but you got away, didn't you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don't need you,
I need you, I don't need you
and all of that jiving around.

His lyrics about sums up what some of us might have wished we had said:

Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture

My opinion of what describes Leonard Cohen the best is the preface he wrote in the Chinese translation of his book Beautiful Losers. Here Leonard Cohen reveals himself as the usual modest Poet with a dry sense of humor who values his listeners and readers.

2Penned in February, 2000, and titled, "A Note to the Reader," the preface provides Cohen's latest thoughts on a novel he calls an "odd collection of jazz riffs, pop-art jokes, refigured kitsch and muffled prayer." The essay explains how he wrote the novel on the sunlit patio of his home in Greece, never once wearing a hat, which makes the work, in his words, "more of a sunstroke than a book." ”

Transcribed from his book Beautiful Losers, also found at :


Dear Reader,

Thank you for coming to this book. It is an honor, and a surprise, to have the frenzied thoughts of my youth expressed in Chinese characters. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the translator and the publishers in bringing this curious work to your attention. I hope you will find it useful or amusing.

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. Much later, during the years when I practiced as a Zen monk under the guidance of my teacher Kyozan Joshu Roshi, the thrilling sermons of Lin Chi (Rinzai) were studied every day. So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

This is a difficult book, even in English, if it is taken too seriously. May I suggest that you skip over the parts you don't like? Dip into it here and there. Perhaps there will be a passage, or even a page, that resonates with your curiosity. After a while, if you are sufficiently bored or unemployed, you may want to read it from cover to cover. In any case, I thank you for your interest in this odd collection of jazz riffs, pop-art jokes, religious kitsch and muffled prayer æ an interest which indicates, to my thinking, a rather reckless, though very touching, generosity on your part.

Beautiful Losers was written outside, on a table set among the rocks, weeds and daisies, behind my house on Hydra, an island in the Aegean Sea. I lived there many years ago. It was a blazing hot summer. I never covered my head. What you have in your hands is more of a sunstroke than a book.

Dear Reader, please forgive me if I have wasted your time.

Los Angeles, February 27, 2000

Leonard Cohen

As I continue my serendipitous journey, perhaps to have only learnt about this remarkably talented Poet, I end my post with one of my favorite poetic lyrics by Leonard Cohen thus far:


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.



Permission to reprint excerpts from Wonderland or Not granted to Binding Ink.

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Post title from Leonard Cohen's fourth studio album: NEW SKIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY, August 1974 - A remastered CD was released in 1995.

Update: Found, a related serendipitous posts: Leonard Cohen, The Chelsea Hotel, and Ceremonial Crap by By Agent Bedhead, "Tonight, the 2008 inductees will be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 23rd annual induction ceremony in New York City. Stepping into these generally well-worn, vodka-stained shoes are Leonard Cohen, John Mellencamp, The Dave Clark Five, The Ventures, and, in a hurl-worthy display of the power of donation money chuztpah, Madonna..." read more


Anonymous said...

He is terrific. His songs are used in so many movies. I went to the Philip Glass performance of his book of poems during Spoleto last year hoping he might show but he didn't.

Anonymous said...

What interesting books and peoms. I have never read any of these, I think I should give it a try.

I have something for you on my site.

Love and Blessings,

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Hi Japee of Walk This Way, Thank You for commenting. Dang, I’m sure behind times or have been living to much of a past isolated life. I found Philip Glass - Book of Longing Spoleto performance you mentioned! That would have been grand if Leonard Cohen did show up, grand for your camera, and even grander if I merely saw the performance. Sounds enchanting, thanks for sharing!

BTW: I'm adding you to my Technorati BlogRoll, as I am often losing noteworthy sites due to computer curses :)

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Thank You AngelBaby, you are always so kind and thoughtful :) Hugs from the Universe!

Cooper said...

He is spectacular, and for those like me who are not poets, only playing one in our kitchens, much admired. My father introduced me to Cohen. I was glad to be reminded again of him.

I'm glad you found him as well.

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Cooper your Father was awesome to introduce you to such a talented man. And Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen was one of the 2008 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the March 10 ceremony!

Kat Mortensen said...

My husband and I are great fans of Leonard Cohen and in fact, will be purchasing tickets this Thursday for seats at a concert in our town where he will be performing in June of this year.
We discovered LC through the tribute album, "I'm Your Fan". Though in our late-thirties at the time, neither of us had been exposed to his work prior to that album and we both fell in love with it. We have since bought a number of his cds and play them regularly.
Check out the album, Field Commander Cohen, which is a live album of a concert from the 70s and which is truly our favourite.
Stop by my blog Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes and check out some of my work, if you are so inclined.
I will be linking to yours as of now.

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Thanks Poetikat for your comment. I will forsure ck-out Field Commander Cohen! And I am looking forward to visiting your site, Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes "Poetry - rhyme and free verse, fun and serious, anecdotes and articles..."

Diane Dehler said...

I enjoyed thisl discussion of Leonard Cohen and learned new things about him including his study of Zen and interest in Chinese poets. Years ago my first boyfriend introduced me to the song, Suzanne and I still it hear it through love's gentle voice.

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Hello Princess Haiku! I got to hear the song Suzanne for the first time in the movie and the words have so many meanings on so many levels. Wonderful song indeed along with Leonard Cohen's deep appreciation of Zen and fondness for Chinese poets. Truly a philosophical man of great modesty.