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Thursday, October 18, 2001

Leonard Cohen chat transcript

Leonard Cohen: Dear Friends, This is a difficult moment for all of us and I appreciate your taking the time to come to this conversation in the midst of our grave concerns. So thank you and welcome.

John: How do you feel your experience of Buddhism has influenced you and why is your experience of meditation not reflected more in your songs?

Leonard Cohen: Dear John, A while ago I played the record for two Zen monks. When it was finished they were silent for some time. Then one of them said, "That was as good as two weeks of session" (an intensive meditation retreat). The other monk kept his eyes closed and only opened them when I filled his glass. Then we kept on drinking.

Walter: what does Christ mean to you?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Walter, Last year I tried to put it this way: Was looking at the crucifix. Got something in my eye. A Light that doesn't need to live and doesn't need to die. What's written in the Book of Love is strangely incomplete, 'til witnessed here in time and blood a thousand kisses deep.

Alistair: How do you think your writing and music has changed since studying under Roshi?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Mr. Sword, I've been studying with Roshi for over thirty years, so it's hard to say. Roshi came to the studio one night when I was recording New Skin for the Old Ceremony. That was in the seventies. In those days I was being written off as a morbid old depressive drone peddling suicide notes. (Still am, in some circles). Roshi slept through most, but not all of the session. The next morning I asked him what he thought. He said, "Leonard, you should sing more sad." That was the best advice I ever got. Took a while to put it into practice.

Helen-Anne: Hello! My comment/question is: Sometimes 'fans' tend to put a poet/artist on such a high pedestal that our expectations may seem overwhelming. Hopefully you have never felt such pressure. Do you have any expectations of your 'fans'? Is there such a thing as 'the perfect fan'? What has the ultimate reward been for you ?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Helen-Anne, Of course I know the meaning of the word, but I never think of the people who listen to my songs as "fans." Something disagreeable about seeing people that way. I think of the activity as a kind of conversation, and now it's my turn to talk. Expectations are out of place in the privacy of the occasion, and if I have them, it probably means the song isn't any good.

Elisabeth: I'm currently working on a master-thesis on your song-lyrics at a Norwegian university. How do you feel about the fact that your work has now become curriculum at literature courses all over the world?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Elisabeth, Thank you for your hard work. I hope that you bring your thesis to a happy conclusion, and that the effort is not too arduous. At the beginning of my first book of poems, I used a quotation from a short story by William Faulkner: "All right" he said. "Listen and read again, but only one stanza this time and closed the book and laid it on the table. "She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss" McCaslin said: "Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair." "He's talking about a girl," he said. "He had to talk about something," McCaslin said. That's from The Bear by William Faulkner. We all have to talk about something.

RandiC: Do you still live in Montreal part of the year? Will you be performing in Montreal any time soon?

Leonard Cohen: Dear RC, Thanks for the vote. 1) Yes I do. (While I was up at Mt. Baldy I couldn't get there as often as I would have liked.) 2) No plans to tour at the moment.

Jenine: Your music and words resonate with a place I call home, your latest work even more deeply so. Is it possible to share with us in this format some of the recent discoveries you've made about "home" and how these discoveries continue to shape your songs and life?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Jenine, Thank you so much for this observation. Home Sweet Home. Roshi said you never lose your home. He also said that home is not an object. It is not fixed. Any perspective you have on your home is the distance you are from it. Being at home is the activity of not needing to look for a home, and not needing to abandon a home. The mirrors are clear, the shadows are past, the wandering heart is homeless at last. I spent a lot of time at Roshi's home. Hospitality. Drinking cognac with the old man - his exquisite hospitality in the shack by the river - that is, no hospitality just emptying the bottle into my glass and filling my plate and falling asleep when it was time to go.

Seth: You have such vivid Christian imagery in many of your songs, and much of it is contrasted with the selfishness of the "modern" individual. I was wondering what's your take on the state of Christianity today?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Seth, I don't really have a 'take on the state of Christianity.' But when I read your question, this answer came to mind: As I understand it, into the heart of every Christian, Christ comes, and Christ goes. When, by his Grace, the landscape of the heart becomes vast and deep and limitless, then Christ makes His abode in that graceful heart, and His Will prevails. The experience is recognized as Peace. In the absence of this experience much activity arises, divisions of ever sort. Outside of the organizational enterprise, which some applaud and some mistrust, stands the figure of Jesus, nailed to a human predicament, summoning the heart to comprehend its own suffering by dissolving itself in a radical confession of hospitality.

Slashlarue: sir: when exactly IS 'Closing Time?' (great song!)

Leonard Cohen: Dear Slashlarue, It's that wild, or beautiful, or terrible time when things reach their maximum point of expansion, and then begin to contract. It's the time we're in. I'm glad you like the song.

Aaron: Welcome back! We've missed you. Will your older books of poetry (eg. Let Us Compare Mythologies, etc), which are currently out of print, be re-released in the future? We have "Stranger Music," but of course we'd also like to read the rest!

Leonard Cohen: Dear Aaron, Thank you for your welcome. Maybe one day my publishers will put out a Collected Poems, which include everything. I'm not sure, though, that it all deserves to be reprinted.

Elliot: I am a professor of Jewish mysticism at NYU, and on Oct. 18th I will be delivering a lecture at McGill entitled "New Jerusalem Glowing: The Songs of
Leonard Cohen in a Kabbalistic Key". I would like to take this unique opportunity to ask Mr. Cohen directly if he has studied kabbalah or hasidism, and if so, he acknowledges a direct influence on his work.

Leonard Cohen: Dear Professor Wolfson, Thank you for studying my lyrics in relation to the kabbalah. I have a very superficial knowledge of the matter but even by dipping into the many books, I have been deeply touched by what I read, and by my conversations with living Hasidic masters. The model of the Tree of Life and the activities and interactions of the sephirot has been especially influential. The idea of the in-breath to clear a space for the whole manifestation and the out-breath as the place of the manifestation, has of course been illumined by my studies with Roshi and his instructions in zen meditation. Please give my regards to the folks at McGill.

Rik: Mr. Cohen, Will you ever return to writing novels? If not, why not? If so, when can we expect a new one?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Rik, I'd like to write another novel. I like the stable life that goes with the enterprise. Unfortunately, I don't have a single idea of what to write. All I have is the appetite to write one.

Stephen: What is your opinion on the proposition that "the visions of poets may teach those who do not want to know it that there is more in shadow than in light"?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Stephen, I don't think the poet has a mission. I think that activity more appropriately applies to the priest, the teacher, the politician, and the warrior. As my friend Layton wrote: "Whatever else, poetry is freedom." It seems a very aggressive proposition to teach someone something they don't want to learn.

Hans: You appear in one of Axel Jensen's books as "Lorenzo". Have you read the book, and if so - do you think his description of you is accurate?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Hans, If I'm not mistaken, the character Lorenzo was modeled on the late Swedish writer, Goran Tunstrom. At least I think that's what Axel told me. My memory isn't too good.

Sergio: I've never known what "First We Take Manhattan" is about. Can you explain it a little? Do you think its meaning changed after the attack to New York? Would you sing it again in concert? Thank you.

Leonard Cohen: Dear Sergio, Every succeeding moment changes what has happened the moment before. In the stream of writing all that is written changes its meanings by what is written subsequently. First We Take Manhattan might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist. In a way it's a better song now than it was before and I would probably sing it in concert if the circumstances were appropriate.

Stefan: Dearest Leonard, does contemporary music still play any role in your life and if so what acts of today would you tip your hat to?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Stefan, As the Talmud says "There's good wine in every generation." I love to hear what Dylan has to say and Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits and many others. The last album of George Jones "The Cold Hard Truth" is very very good. So is Jennifer Warnes' last album, "The Well."

Nick: Are you likely to tour the new album? And what are the chances of you coming to the UK?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Nick, I have no plans to tour at the present moment, but you can never tell.

Lizzie: As a writer of poetry, I come across a lot of people who 'write poems' and call themselves 'poets'. I have always subscribed to something you wrote along the lines of "the title of poet is something that is bestowed by others and not something bestowed on oneself" and so have refused to call myself 'poet' and await, and await the bestowing!!

Leonard Cohen: Dear Lizzie, I once said "poetry is a verdict, not an intention" but I wouldn't take the matter too seriously. We can call ourselves whatever we want.

Gauthier: Why isn't the guitar no longer a driving force of your music?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Gauthier, I've been playing a lot of guitar lately so perhaps my next few songs will be guitar driven. I love my old Spanish guitar. It's a Conde, a maker who was a disciple of Ramirez.

Maurice: Does religion matter?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Maurice, Religions are among the great organizing principles of humanity. It seems to me they matter too much and not enough.

Marco: Once you said that you wished you could have been like a poet whose songs are sung from chinese women washing clothes on a river. Is it still this your goal? Thank you for EVERYTHING

Leonard Cohen: Dear Marco, They don't have to be Chinese. Thanks for listening.

Peter: I would like to know if you have any advice on the craft of song writing, thank you.

Leonard Cohen: Dear Peter, The only thing I've learned is that if you stick with it long enough a song will eventually yield but "long enough" is often an alarming duration. I'm speaking personally. Great songs have been written in minutes.

Bernie: In light of the recent tragedies in New York and Washington are you at all surprised what human beings are capable of inflicting to one another?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Bernie, I'm always shocked but never surprised.

Tinder: There is a lot of splendid, officially unreleased live material. I consider "Cohen Live" from 1994 to be the best album in the world among all those I've listened to. Will there be more live albums?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Tinder, I also consider "Cohen Live" as one of my best albums and I thank you for appreciating it. I'm putting together a new live album right now and I hope it will be released next year.

Jeroen: What do you consider the difference between the inner feelings and what is being told to you a thousand kisses deep? How are you able to really hear/understand/recognize what is being told to you, a thousand kisses deep, when you don't trust your inner feelings?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Jeroen, Great question. I'll try to answer it. A Thousand Kisses Deep is that fundamental intuitive understanding, usually wordless, which is beyond opinion and belief. It is the unspoken conviction that things are unfolding according to a pattern that the intellect or the emotions cannot discern. This conviction is accompanied by a loosening of the unconditional affirmation that an individual entity exists and that it determines its own fate.

Clayton: While listening to the new album I found the arrangement, production, and sonic stylings were very reminiscent of "Various Positions". Is the similarity intentional or am I just imagining things?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Clayton, I never really thought of it but I think you have a point.

David: Have you ever wanted or been asked to write songs with other superstar singer-songwriters such as Paul McCartney, Neil Young, or Bono? You could offer a much needed Lennonesque edge to Paul's work!

Leonard Cohen: Dear David, I've never been asked and frankly I don't believe they need me but thanks for the vote.

Robin: Leonard, even though your new album "Ten New Songs" is just coming out now in stores, do you have any plans on recording any MORE albums?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Robin, At present I'm assembling a new live album and working on a collection of new songs.

Janasta: This is a question about your son Adam if you don't mind.....I was wondering what your son Adam is doing now, and will he be coming out with another CD sometime soon? Also, does your son have a website?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Janasta, I believe my son's website is www.adamcohen.com. I've heard about thirty of his new songs and they are stunning. I just went to one of his gigs at Largo, a club in Los Angeles, where he presented many of them. You could hear a pin drop.

Steve: Hello Leonard, Wondered what you thought of Love and Theft - Bob Dylan's new album...

Leonard Cohen: Dear Steve, I love everything that Dylan does and I love to hear the old guys lay it out. Love and Theft produces tremendous energy.

Kevin: From listening closely to the lyrics on your new album, you seem to take a less ironic and more direct approach to your themes. Two major ones I notice a shift in since THE FUTURE are your attitude towards death and your inclination to write as one living in the Present. To what extent do you feel your retreat as a monk influenced you in your creative work, and if what I've mentioned a part of this?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Kevin, Thank you for your attention to my work. I've been studying with Roshi for thirty years and the practice he has established has influenced me deeply. I'm not trying to evade your question, but I think it's easier for anyone but myself to speak about how the various themes in the songs have developed.

Jeffrey: Are there any plans for a
Leonard Cohen box containing all your previously released work and unreleased tracks?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Jeffrey, There is some talk of it but right now I'd rather concentrate on original material.

Dusty: Leonard, Welcome back. I wish to thank you for the line, "I stumbled out of bed," etc. I have been able to get out of bed and into the world with no problems since first hearing that song. Thank you. I am looking forward to the 10 new songs.

Leonard Cohen: Dear Dusty, I'm very happy to hear that my songs have been useful in some small way. Thank you for telling me.

James: If the
Leonard Cohen who created "Ten New Songs" were to meet up with the
Leonard Cohen who created "Song of
Leonard Cohen," what advice would he give (besides "Move To L.A".)?

Leonard Cohen: Hang in there kid.

Dan Grady: Mr. Cohen, When I heard your album "The Future" I felt certain that this would be your final work. It seemed to me that there was nothing much left to say. Did this occur to you, and if so, what inspired you to release another album?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Dan, in a certain way Ten New Songs is an answer to The Future.

October rain: Mr. Cohen How is it you know so much about love?

Leonard Cohen: Dear October_Rain, I never thought I did.

Lars: How can I actually be sure that this is Mr. Cohen writing?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Lars, What kind of proof would you need. Kelley's typing this. I don't type very well. But to answer your question, you can't be sure.

Redned: What would you say was your greatest lesson in this life and how well do you think you've learned it?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Redned, Your question has stumped me. I'm not good at anything.

Ddgryphon: Have you considered writing more novels or do you feel more freedom in song structure?

Leonard Cohen: Dear ddgryphon, It's the other way around for me. Prose is open. The lyric is confined.

Suss: Dear Leonard. Do you have any favorite books to recommend?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Suss, "Consciousness Speaks" by Ramesh S. Balsekar.

Ron: Hi Leonard, I wonder what music influences (idols) you have had trough the years?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Ron, Flamenco. The Blues. Fado. Folk Music. Chopin. This list will go on forever.

Lisajo: How do you feel about being an influence on other Canadian artists, such as the Barenaked Ladies?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Lisajo, It's good to know people are listening.

Evan_G: I see many similarities between your work and that of Hermann Hesse, both in imagery and philosophy. Has this writer had any direct influence on you?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Evan, I read Hermann Hesse when I was young. I loved his books. His sense of a dedicated life meant a lot to me.

George: What is your writing routine like?

Leonard Cohen: Dear George, I usually carry a notebook, jot down a few things. A musical phrase arises. I try to marry them. A tedious process at the beginning but then it becomes obsessional and the hours go by.

Raphael: What words do you find yourself using now that you didn't use before you went into the Buddhist monestary?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Raphael, horrible words like "manifestation" and "the complete self"

Micky: Do you prefer to be recognized for your books, your music, or your poetry?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Micky, I'm happy to be recognized at all.

Pi: Can you explain what you were feeling and what you wanted to express when you wrote "One Night I Burned"

Leonard Cohen: Dear Pi, I wrote that poem over thirty years ago. I don't remember what's in it.

RWEllis: Do you regard yourself as an optimist or a pessimist? Or are you a realist who is classified as a pessimist by those who regard your work as negative? What is your outlook for these turbulent times?

Leonard Cohen: Dear RWEllis, Forgive me, but I never ask myself these questions. As far as my outlook in these dark times I remember an ancient hebrew blessing that is said upon hearing bad news The blessing is: Blessed are thou O Lord our G-d King of the Universe The True Judge.

Shelly: I live in Poland, where you have always been very popular. I remember the time when it was impossible to get even a tape with your music. At the moment I can take part in the Internet chat with you. Are you aware that so many people in my country love your music so very much? I have all your albums and I know many of your songs by heart.

Leonard Cohen: Dear Shelly, Thank you so much. I toured in Poland during the early eighties and I was touched by the size and intensity of the audiences. I will never forget those concerts in Poland.

Beni: Dear Leonard, first of all compliments for your new record, it was such a wonderful surprise for us all. When was it that you first felt you needed to put some more music into your life? was this moment related to something particular?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Beni, Nothing particular. Just the job.

SonyMusic: Mr Cohen, unfortunately our time is almost up. Thank you for this presentation! Do you have any final remarks to leave with our audience?

Leonard Cohen: Thank you for coming to the chat. I hope it didn't waste your time.

SonyMusicCanada: Thank you for chatting with us. Be sure to visit http://www.leonardcohen.com to keep up to date and learn more about this first class artist.

This has been a production of LiveWorld
Copyright 2001
Rights Reserved.






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