A selection of poems brought to you by Leonard Cohen
“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”—Leonard Cohen.
Today, March 21st, is World Poetry Day 2020.
The idea, brought forward and declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999, promotes the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.
The purpose of the event, according to UNESCO, is to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.”
In honour of the event, we did what all people should do in search for inspiration… turn to Leonard Cohen. “I always thought that poetry is the verdict that others give to a certain kind of writing,” Cohen once said of the art form. “So to call yourself a poet is a kind of dangerous description. It’s for others; it’s for others to use.”
He added: “I think the term poet is a very exalted term and should be applied to a man at the end of his work. When he looks back over the body of his work and he’s written poetry then let the verdict be that he’s a poet.”
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.