Today, October 4th, is National Poetry Day 2018.

The idea, dreamt up by William Sieghart of the Forward Arts Foundation in 1994, celebrates the medium of poetry and to engage millions of people in its art form. “There are millions of talented poets out there and it’s about time they got some recognition for their work,” once said. “They shouldn’t be embarrassed about reading their work out aloud,” he continued.

“I want people to read poetry on the bus on their way to work, in the street, in school and in the pub.”

Each year a different theme is applied. Over time we’ve seen subjects such as RememberIdentity, The Future and, for 2018, we have the subject of Change. 

In honour of the event, we did we all people should do in search for inspiration… turn to Leonard Cohen. Here’s a selection of our favourite Cohen poems:


Poem (“I heard of a man …”) from “Let Us Compare Mythologies”

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.
If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.


My lady can sleep from “The Spice-Box of Earth”

My lady can sleep
Upon a handkerchief
Or if it be Fall
Upon a fallen leaf.
I have seen the hunters
kneel before her hem
Even in her sleep
She turns away from them.
The only gift they offer
Is their abiding grief
I pull out my pockets
For a handkerchief or leaf.


Waiting for Marianne from “Flowers for Hitler”

I have lost a telephone
with your smell in it
I am living beside the radio
all the stations at once
but I pick out a Polish lullaby
I pick it out of the static
it fades I wait I keep the beat
it comes back almost alseep

Did you take the telephone
knowing I’d sniff it immoderately
maybe heat up the plastic
to get all the crumbs of your breath

and if you won’t come back
how will you phone to say
you won’t come back
so that I could at least argue


I Wonder How Many People in This City from “The Spice-Box of Earth”

I wonder how many people in this city
live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when i look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
looking back at me
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.


Song (“I almost went to bed …”) from “The Spice-Box of Earth”

I almost went to bed
without remembering
the four white violets
I put in the button-hole
of your green sweater

and how i kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I’d
never been your lover


Beneath My Hands (“In my hands, your small breasts …”) from “The Spice-Box of Earth”

Beneath my hands
your small breasts
are the upturned bellies
of breathing fallen sparrows.

Wherever you move
I hear the sounds of closing wings
of falling wings.

I am speechless
because you have fallen beside me
because your eyelashes
are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.

I want them
to surrender before you
the trembling rhyme of your face
from their deep caskets.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want my body and my hands
to be pools
for your looking and laughing.


Summer-Haiku from “The Spice-Box of Earth”
For Frank and Marian Scott

Silence

and a deeper silence

when the crickets

hesitate


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