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Some of the best work of one of the most enduring poet/songwriters of our time collected
Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934. His collecitons The Spice-Box of Earth, Book of Mercy and the bestselling Collected Poems established his international reputation as a poet. Alongside his records he has published further collections of poetry and two novels. He lives in Los Angeles.
Cohen is probably best known as the writer of the lyrics for the song ``Suzanne,'' made famous by Judy Collins, but has written a great many other songs, too, as well as poetry and prose poetry not set to music. In reading through this generous selection, one often hears the ghost of musical accompaniment, and sometimes its actual presence is missed. The writing alone, forthright in its rhythms, plain of speech, often rhymed, and almost immediately accessible, seems well suited to the ears of a live audience. So fans of the songs will be in luck, here; but readers who prefer slow subtleties, or a kind of poetry that gradually expands in meaning on rereading, or ambitious craft, won't find it in a piece like ``For Anne,'' which begins ``With Annie gone, / Whose eyes to compare / With the morning sun?'' Cohen's writing is oral in flavor, and asks us to ``read'' it mainly by hearing it. This works to the disadvantage of a book, where words stay put and aren't sung. (Dec.)
To appreciate these poems, we must suspend any notions of poetry as an intellectual art form and approach this work as one would a rack of greeting cards. Rhyme abounds, frankly showing Cohen at his best because it holds his didactic nature in check. Although there are few surprises, such as the wonderful early poem ``Beneath My Hands,'' the songs from Cohen's first album, written over 30 years ago, are still his finest displays of outrageous yet stunning imagery. The presence of woman as lover, prostitute, or slave, celebrated in these early songs, continues into his latest work, making over 400 pages seem remarkably flimsy. That these women never seem to exist as individuals will possibly offend readers with a feminist bent. Yet despite almost pornographic descriptions, this Jewish poet still will not write outG-d's name. The Buddhist element in his 1984 poetry collection, Book of Mercy , is now scarcely evident. Despite its flaws, this book is recommended for popular collections.-- Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, ``Soho Weekly News,'' New York
"A godsend for Cohen fans... A remarkable body of work that takes us back to the earliest days" * Ottawa Citizen * "A massive record of the poet's imaginative journey, through beauty, through horror, through the extremes of love and despair, from the deepest abyss of self-abnegation to the rare and necessary moments of ecstasy. The language ranges from the exquisitely beautiful to the darkly obscene, from the romantically inspired to the ironically banal... A poetic record like no other" * Toronto Star * "Impressive by any standard" * The Globe and Mail *