COHEN, LEONARD


COHEN, LEONARD
COHEN, LEONARD (1934– ), Montreal-born poet, novelist, and songwriter whose work was uniquely influential through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cohen's background differentiated him from the Jewish writers of Montreal, who had grown up before him on the hardscrabble streets of the downtown. His family were pillars of the community, ensconced in a grand Westmount home near the hilly Murray Hill Park, which he turns into an iconic landscape in his fiction. Although Cohen's poetic career was nurtured by the rich literary life of Jewish Montreal, and the burgeoning modernist movement centered around a few older poets and teachers, his broader impact as a writer came with his ability to enter the international scene through his songwriting. There are thus two Cohens – one a contributor to an established line of poetic inheritance, intimately linked to his birthplace; the other a pop troubadour whose songs speak to audiences in Poland, Finland, and New York as directly as they do to Canadians. In the early 1960s this division was not so easily felt, as poems that appeared in his early books were reworked into successful songs. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, appeared in the same year that his Selected Poems was published. The particular style and tone of his poetry were well suited to the blend of folk, country, and blues that informed such records as Songs from a Room (1969). In the early 1970s Cohen began to express a diffidence with his poetic gifts and distanced himself from his audience in the darkly ironic poems collected in The Energy of Slaves (1972). This persona of the divided poet returns in his collection Death of a Lady's Man (1978). In it, the left-hand page presents a poem, which is then critiqued on the facing page. Around the same time, Cohen released Death of a Ladies' Man. This project distanced Cohen from the constituency of listeners who had fallen for songs like "Suzanne" and "Bird on the Wire." Cohen's movement through poetry, novels, and on to popular songwriting suggested a restless and multitalented artist who is both drawn to and repelled by fame. Much of Cohen's work is informed by his Jewishness, although often in shadowy and ambiguous ways. Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), The Spice-Box of Earth (1961), and Flowers for Hitler (1964) revealed a voice informed by subtle humor, Judaic imagery, and pop cultural savvy. His first novel, The Favourite Game, is a lyrical portrait of a charmed West-mount adolescence, not unlike Cohen's own. Among his best albums is New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which reworks Jewish liturgical imagery (especially that of Yom Kippur) in powerfully strange and simple folk-blues anthems. Even Beautiful Losers (1966), Cohen's final novel, is underwritten by the predicament of what his narrator provocatively calls the "New Jew," inheritor of a tradition transformed into some grotesque yet compelling version of its once more coherent self. But the novel reaches beyond Cohen's established themes and lyrical tones for a more all-encompassing portrait of Canadian identity in a nascent multicultural era. The combination of cultural influence in the novel is representative of Montreal's mixed heritage, as French, English, Mohawk, and Jewish settlements on the banks of the St. Lawrence are explored. The book in which Cohen places the greatest emphasis on Jewish language and imagery is his last published collection of new poetry, Book of Mercy (1984). In short psalm-like sections, the poet returns to the familiar subject matter of private and poetic pain, yet he does so in language that repeatedly echoes traditional Jewish prayer: "Blessed are you who has given each man a shield of loneliness so that he cannot forget you." Leonard Cohen's oeuvre stands at the end of a line of inheritance beginning with the earliest Yiddish writers who settled in Montreal, followed by A.M. Klein and Irving Layton, both of whom influenced Cohen in his youthful work. Readers have had to accept a relative silence from Cohen since the   mid-1980s, when song and his growing position as a cultural icon took precedence over literary output. (Norman Ravvin (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cohen, Leonard — ▪ Canadian musician and author in full  Leonard Norman Cohen  born Sept. 21, 1934, Montreal, Que., Can.    Canadian singer songwriter (singer songwriters) whose spare songs carried an existential bite and established him as one of the most… …   Universalium

  • Cohen, Leonard — (b. 1934)    Canadian writer and popular musician. Cohen was born in Montreal and was educated at McGill University. Subsequently he has lived in Greece, England, California, New York and has since returned to Montreal. His works include the… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Cohen, Leonard — (b. 1934)    Canadian poet. Born in Montreal, he graduated from McGill University. He lived in Greece, England and the US. In the late 1980s he returned to Montreal. His works include Beautiful Losers, Let Us Compare Mythologies, The Spice Box of …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Cohen, Leonard — ► (n. 1934) Cantautor y poeta canadiense. Inicialmente se dedicó a la literatura y a la música country, y posteriormente musicó varios de sus poemas. Algunos de sus álbumes son Various Positions (1985) y I m Your Man (1988), que incluye el tema… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Leonard Cohen — en 1988. Datos generales Nombre real Leonard Norman Cohen …   Wikipedia Español

  • Léonard Cohen — Leonard Cohen Pour les articles homonymes, voir Cohen. Leonard Cohen …   Wikipédia en Français

  • COHEN (L.) — COHEN LEONARD (1934 ) En 1968, la photo sépia d’un visage grave attire les clients dans les magasins de disques. Cette photo orne une pochette de disque d’un noir sévère où on lit tout simplement: Songs of Leonard Cohen . Ce disque, le premier… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Léonard — Leonard oder Léonard ist eine Form des Namens Leonhard. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Bekannte Namensträger 1.1 Vorname 1.2 Familienname 1.3 Künstlername // …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cohen — Cohen, Herman Cohen, Leonard Cohen, Marcel Cohen, Paul Joseph Cohen, Stanley * * * I (as used in expressions) Brandes, Georg (Morris Cohen) Samuel Cohen Judy Cohen Elizabeth Cohen II o kohen ( …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Leonard Cohen — Infobox musical artist Name = Leonard Cohen Img capt = Cohen in 2007 Img size = Landscape = Background = solo singer Birth name = Leonard Norman Cohen Alias = Born = birth date and age|1934|09|21 Montreal, Quebec, Canada Died = Instrument =… …   Wikipedia


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