Greetings, Friends. Welcome to Poetics. I am Mary, and I am happy to be here today. I was amazed (and heartened) that when I shared my Leonard Cohen poem for Open Link on Tuesday how many of those who responded to it were also admirers. Some music that I listen to comes and goes in my life, but the music (and poetry) of Leonard Cohen continues to stay. I have been listening to his music almost daily recently as I walk the track at the Y. It transports me every time, and the laps pass quickly. Thus I came up with the idea of doing Poetics somewhat using a Cohen theme. (Don’t worry if you are one of those who are unfamiliar with him.)
Before the writing part, I would like to share a bit of greatly condensed background on Cohen. He was born in 1934 in an English-speaking area of Montreal, Canada. In high school he developed an interest in music and poetry, and he became especially interested in the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca. As a teen-ager, he formed his own country-folk group. As a young adult he read his poetry in clubs and also wrote the lyrics to what would become his most famous songs. These times made up his artistic foundation, which he continued to build on throughout his life..
He received an undergraduate degree from McGill University and went on to graduate school at McGill and then Columbia University, but it doesn’t seem he finished grad school. His heart was elsewhere. He returned to Montreal, worked odd jobs, and wrote fiction and poetry. He continued to do this throughout the 60′s.
In 1967, disappointed with lack of financial success as a writer, he moved to the United States to pursue a career as a folk singer and song writer. He wrote the song “Suzanne” for Judy Collins, and for many years this was his most famous song. His first album was produced in 1967. And it was uphill from there. He has traveled around the world with his music and still writes poetry. The last book of poetry he published was The Book of Longing in 2006. Though he turns 80 years old this year, he is still on the road performing. In fact, he has a concert in my home town in March.
(Leonard Cohen – Wikimedia Commons)
In case you think you are not familiar with Cohen, here are a few of his famous songs which may tweak your memory: “Suzanne,” “Hallelujah,” “Bird on a Wire”, “Sisters of Mercy,” “Famous Blue Raincoat”, and “Everybody Knows“. Leonard Cohen’s 12th studio album, Old Ideas, was released throughout the world on January 31, 2012, and it soon became the highest charting album of Cohen’s entire career. As far as poetry, he has published a total of 13 poetry books. He has also written fiction.
So what does this all have to do with Poetics? Well, if you yourself are a Cohen fan and have a poem / song that is triggered by something you know of the man and his music (perhaps your own personal favorite song or poem of his), go in that direction without further adieu! Also, feel free to look at Cohen lyrics online (they are readily available) and also to take a look at You-Tube where you will be able to see dozens of Leonard Cohen videos. If you take this route, no need to think further about your writing topic for today.
However, for those of you who are not so inspired, I would like to present to you the Cohen song/poem “The Chelsea Hotel” for inspiration. I like it very much: The words, the theme, the melody. It is very personal and atmospheric. He wrote this song to Janis Joplin, with whom he had a brief involvement.
Whether or not you watch this video (I hope you will), I suggest you think of a place that has special emotional significance to you, perhaps a place that evokes a special memory such as the Chelsea Hotel did for Leonard Cohen who wrote / sang (in the above song). I include a few of the lyrics below:
“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet”
and later on
“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.”
For Cohen, the memory of the Chelsea Hotel was tied to Janice Joplin. Perhaps the memory of your place is also tied with an experience which involved someone else; or perhaps your memory of a place is just your own memory of that place…wherever it might be. As you write about a place, try to give it atmosphere, and also try to evoke feeling about the place (combined with memory). Your place can be somewhere in the past or present, outdoors or indoors, a place you visited on your travels or right in your backyard.
What to do next
• Write your poem and post it to your blog
• Add a link to your poem via the ‘Mr Linky’ below
• Read and comment on other peoples work to let them know it’s being read
• Share via your favorite social media platforms
• Above all- have fun!