Leonard Cohen Leaves Behind Rich Literary Legacy with Novels and Poetry

By Rose, Lauren La | The Canadian Press, November 11, 2016 | Go to article overview

Leonard Cohen Leaves Behind Rich Literary Legacy with Novels and Poetry


Rose, Lauren La, The Canadian Press


Leonard Cohen leaves literary legacy

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TORONTO - As the world reflects on the musical legacy of the late Leonard Cohen, the Canadian icon is being remembered for his literary contributions where the acclaimed artist found his early taste of fame.

In addition to his two novels, "The Favourite Game" and "Beautiful Losers," Cohen also published 11 books of poetry over the course of his lengthy artistic career.

His most recent poetic works were "Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs," "Book of Longing," and "Leonard Cohen: Poems and Songs."

McClelland & Stewart publisher Jared Bland described Cohen as "a poet of transcendent beauty and wisdom" and "a novelist of moral urgency and insight."

Queen's University English professor Robert May says Cohen's debut collection "Let Us Compare Mythologies" published in 1956 contains some of the work for which the late artist is best known -- and many of the poems were written when he was still in his teens.

It wasn't until the late 1950s and early 1960s that Cohen came under the influence of some of the avant-garde writers in Canada -- like the late Montreal-born poet Louis Dudek -- and started writing more highly experimental forms of poetry, May noted.

"In his subsequent books of poetry, you begin to see a real expansion of form and content and subject matter. He begins to abandon traditional forms and themes and he begins to embrace a broader range of issues," May said in a phone interview from Kingston, Ont.

"For example, in 'Let Us Compare Mythologies,' there are a lot of love lyrics. And while they're some of the best known love lyrics that Cohen wrote, when you get into some of his later books of poetry, you begin to see him exploring issues of spirituality, issues of religion, issues of politics."

After earning acclaim for his 1961 collection "The Spice-Box Of Earth," Cohen veered into decidedly darker territory with his followup "Flowers for Hitler," noted McGill University English professor Brian Trehearne, who offers a course exploring Cohen's literary works and music.

"He starts wanting to write what he thinks of ugly, twisted little poems," Trehearne said. "There's definitely this turn towards a more and more experimental style, and it is often a much less audience-pleasing style. …

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