Leonard Cohen

Contemplating the Muse

No. 4

Linda Ibbotson

” We have to dare to be ourselves however frightening or strange that self may prove to be “  May Sarton

Linda at Cobh Railway station


Thanks for your company before I head off on my travels in search of new possibilities.

In my last article I was jigging and reeling at the Ballyhooly Arts Festival and chatted with Cliff Horseman a performance poet from the USA now living in Dublin.

Today, the sun is shining and I am reflecting on nature as she is painting her canvas with a palette of profusion, where everything feels possible and the work of the past few months is bearing fruit.

I am sitting here reading my favorite poet Federico Garcia Lorca and I would love to share a thought with you. I discovered this suite of poems whilst researching for an article on Lorca I was privileged to write  ( Link below)

I am enchanted by his suite of poems “In the Garden of the Lunar Grapefruit”. This is a work he spent all the summer of 1923 working feverishly on, with the theme of what “might have been.” To a friend he explains “my garden is the garden of possibilities. the garden of what is not, but could (and at times should) have been.” “Each word in the poem was a butterfly and I have had to hunt them down one by one.”

My books at the House of Franc Glanworth Mill

Reading this brought to my mind:-

1 To find, and  work hard at our “passion” whatever it may be and however well hidden it may seem.

2 Don’t let “what is possible” elude you and fly away as a butterfly with only a trace of its beauty remaining.

3 Grasp every opportunity you can, that presents itself without fear and savor its delights and your personal garden will flourish.

A poet and fellow admirer of Lorca whose personal garden has flourished, albeit not without difficulty is Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen and Garcia Lorca  (My books).

Poet, novelist and musician..

Federico Garcia Lorca was a poet that greatly inspired Leonards poetry and songwriting so much that he named his daughter born in 1974…Lorca.

1934 Leonard was born in Montreal, Quebec Canada

He studied poetry and music at school and formed a country folk group The Buckskin Boya.  Having learnt classical guitar he progressed to play flamenco having learnt a few chords from a young Spanish flamenco guitarist.. He then moved to Montreal’s  “Little Portugal” where he started to read his poetry in the local clubs.

1951 Cohen studied at Mcgill University in Montreal where he won the Chester MacNaughton Literary Competition for his poems  ” Sparrows” and ” Thoughts of a Landsman.

1954 Cohen published his first poems in CIV which also included poems by his poet professors.Louis Dudek and Irving Layton  who also became his friend and mentor. his poetic influences also included Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats, Henry Miller.and Federico Garcia Lorca.

1956 Cohen published his first book of poetry “Let us Compare Mythologies”  poems that were written between the ages of 15 and 20 years of age.and dedicated it  to his late father.

1961 The Spice- Box of Earth published. This reached out far beyond the boundaries of Montreal to the poetic scene in Canada and was now recognized as a new and important voice in Canadian poetry..

Greenwich Village and Greece.

He spent much time writing while he was living in a house he bought on the Greek island of Hydra. This is where he met Marianne.

Late 1960′s found Leonard to be very much involved in the Greenwich Village folk scene. Coffeehouses such as Cafe Wha became the meeting place for creative radicals. artists and musicians such as Dylan and Paul Simon.to name but a few.  While living in New York he began setting his poems to music. Judy  Collins recorded two of his poems.. “Suzanne” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag”..

More collections of poetry and novels published.

The Favorite Game, his first novel won the Quebec Literary competition.

Flowers for Hitler, Beautiful Losers, Parasites of Heaven,, Selected Poems..

1972 Energy of Slaves.

1079 Death of a Ladies Man

1985 Leonard won Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for poetry for his Book of Mercy. This work was influenced by the Hebrew Bible and Zen writings.  He referred to these poems as prayers.

1993 Stranger Music.. selected poems and songs.

A period of retreat and beyond...

1994 Leonard retreated to Mount Baldy Zen Centre near Los Angeles where he was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist Monk.He took the Dharma name Jikan  which means Silence.

Late 1990′s .He returned to Los Angeles and started contributing his new poems to the Leonard Cohen files ( Link Below) releasing  “Alexandra Leaving” a transformation of the poem “God Abandons Antony” by the Greek poet Constantine P Cavafy.

Book of Longing and butterfly 2

2006 Book of Longing. Poetry , prose and drawings. A Toronto retailer offered signed copies of this book to the first 1500 orders placed on line. All copies sold within an hour. Also in May was his first public appearance in 13 years at a bookstore in Toronto. 3.000 people turned up causing the roads around to be closed . Philip Glass  also composed music to this book and performed a series of live concerts and released a double CD ..Book of Longing, A song cycle based on the poetry and artwork of Leonard Cohen.

2009 The Lyrics of Leonard Cohen

2011 Poems and Songs.. He also was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize for Literature and the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in Spain.

2012 Fifteen Poems  an ebook. Also this year saw him honored with the Inaugural PEN. An award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence

He described his writing process as “Like a bear stumbling into a bee hive or a honey cache. I’m stumbling right into it and getting stuck, and its delicious and  it’s horrible and I’m in it and it’s not very graceful and its very awkward and it’s very painful and yet there’s something inevitable about it .”

As a musician he gained many more accolades.and has been such an inspiration to us all.not only musically but also in life and in the challenges he faced.

Whether we are akin to  Cohen’s bear in a bee hive or hunting for butterflies in Lorcas’ garden the possibilities that present themselves are numerous if we embrace them without fear and in time our own personal garden will bear fruit..







PHOTOGRAPHS.. All photographs are taken by Linda Ibbotson at Cobh Railway Station and House of Franc, Glanworth , County Cork  Ireland.

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2 Responses to Leonard Cohen

  1. Diane McPhail says:

    Ah, Linda, thank you for the Lorca poems. So wonderful.

    We were at a dinner party this week—5 couples, 10 people, all my age or so—and I mentioned Leonard Cohen. Every face in the room except my husband’s was blank. No one else had any idea who he is. I was dumbfounded.

    They did know “Hallelujah”—only because it was played over and over with the images of 9/11/

    Love keeping up with you.

    Diane >

    • So glad Diane that you enjoyed the Lorca poems.It is good to be reminded from time to time about such talented writers..
      Lorca, I find to be so descriptive and colorful in his use of language as undoubtedly Leonard is too. That is amazing that friends of our generation had not heard of Leonard Cohen..except for the ‘Hallelujah’. I hope you enlightened them !
      My first hearing was Suzanne and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye when I was 17 and they have travelled with me close to my heart ever since.. …

      Thanks so much for your comment and for reading the blog article Diane ..

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