I knew this one would be inevitable. Leonard Cohen couldn’t possibly live on forever. I heard he had collapsed during a performance on tour a couple of years ago. But then he just released a new album last month, and there were even rumours of a final tour. Maybe even hope for a new book of poetry some day. Who knows?
Leonard Cohen was the first poet I knew was living among us. I encountered his name and work in a high school English class when we had to pick a piece of writing from a Canadian author and write about it in an essay (which, of course, had to follow the five-paragraph format of intro + thesis, first argument, second argument, third argument, then conclusion). I’m fairly certain I picked Cohen’s “Prayer for Messiah” poem, which he reads around the five-minute mark in this appropriately earnest NFB documentary.
At various points in my life of book collecting, I have owned every one of his published works, not to mention the biographies written about him and even some close imitations of his style of prose writing. While the novels Beautiful Losers and The Favourite Game offer so much unique and risk-taking writing, I always come back his poetry.
He generally wrote an “older” style of poetry, often leaning on familiar-sounding verse and rhyme schemes. And I loved it—still do. There are poems I like so much I don’t even want to tell people about them because I want to keep them for myself. And then there are other works that are so popular and undeniably great—I’m thinking of a song like “Hallelujah”—that make me feel proud in a strange way because they were created by someone I felt I knew so intimately. It’s undeniable that Cohen’s works will live on for decades to come. I just wish he could be with us a little longer too.