Longing & Poetry

Thus far, I’ve only really written about prose on Unwind.  However, with this post, I’m going to dive into a bit of poetry.  On a whim, I picked up Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing in a bookstore based on my enjoyment of his music.  I’ve always had a sort of strange, intrinsic attraction to Cohen’s work, whether that be his music, poetry or his prose (his novels are great if you ever get a chance to read them).  There’s something about Leonard Cohen’s poetry that feels hauntingly familiar, yet incredibly astute and heartfelt.

Book of Longing was largely written throughout the 1990s during Cohen’s time living in a Zen monastery and as a result, many of the poems focus on his seclusion, his desire for women, his cravings for cigarettes and his friendships with various monks (particularly one named Roshi).  Despite said friendships, there is a sense of quiet misery and loneliness that bleeds from the poems:

I shaved my head

I put on robes

I sleep in the corner of a cabin

sixty-five hundred feet up a mountain

It’s dismal here

The only thing I don’t need

is a comb

Coupled with the poems are various sketches by Cohen.  Many are of shapely nude women with impossible proportions, or self-portraits, or drawings of monks, and they often add a color or context to the poem that the words alone can’t signify.  There is also a self-deprecating and tongue-in-cheek aspect in Cohen’s poetry, particularly with regards to sex.

There isn’t much I can tell you except to browse through Book of Longing (or even buy it if you’re feeling sinister) the next time you’re in a bookstore; you’re likely to find something you’ll like.  Ill finish up here with one of Cohen’s standout poems in its entirety, entitled “Nightingale”:

I built my house beside the wood
So I could hear you singing
And it was sweet and it was good
And love was all beginning

Fare thee well my nightingale
`Twas long ago I found you
Now all your songs of beauty fail
The forest closes `round you

The sun goes down behind a veil
`Tis now that you would call me
So rest in peace my nightingale
Beneath your branch of holly

Fare thee well my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Though you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you

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No Comments on "Longing & Poetry"

  1. Cassafrass
    07/10/2009 at 8:38 am Permalink

    I <3 poetry and will definitely check this book out! If you want to hear/read some local poets, I’d suggest Lauren Zuniga: http://www.laurenzuniga.com/Lauren_Zuniga/Home.html I recently heard about her from a friend who has heard her perform. I’ve just read her stuff that is online and, so far, I appreciate her candid outlook on life.

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