May 14th, 2006


Some poetry (not mine) ...

I have been a fan of Leonard Cohen for a very long time. Vinyl records ... remember them? I have most of the old stuff ... a half a dozen or so records from the late 60's and the 70's ... plus a number of the later albums on CD (I was interested to note that most if not all of his old albums have been released on CD). I've read books about him before, but I'm pretty sure this is the first actual collection of his poetry that I've read.

Now, one would think that, given the above, I'd be raving about Leonard Cohen's Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs, being that it is a voluminous look at his career. It not only has most of the lyrics to most of the albums (maybe all, I didn't check), but also reproduces the poetry collections from which he initially derived acclaim (The Spice-Box of Earth, etc.). Unfortunately, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of, perhaps, being less of a fan than I had been previously. Yes, he has his moments of brilliance. Yes, he is able to weave religion and war and conflict and sex into a fascinating fabric, but ... it somehow worked better for me a few pieces at a time on an album side.

Frankly, I'm guessing half of his poems are about getting laid, obsessing about women who he wants to screw, has screwed, or who are screwing other people behind his back, etc. etc. etc. It starts out romantic, perhaps bohemian (after all, that was the vibe from the early album covers' art/copy), but it soon enough becomes irritating and threatens to be perceived as puerile over the course of hundreds of poems. Sure, he may of had more sex in a year than I've had in my life, but I don't need to have my nose rubbed in it ... reading Stranger Music was a bit like talking to an old college buddy of mine (who would typically bed 3-5 different gals a week), at some point you really wish you could change the subject to something other than who/how/where/when he'd "gotten it wet"!

Still, most of the poems are pretty amazing. I do wish, however, that there had been some sort of over-all editorial framework ... intro bits that would say that so-and-so section was based on the such-and-such album from X year, or that it was a collection that was released in Y year and won various awards, etc. Being familiar with Cohen's music and history, I was able to more-or-less triangulate this info, but there were bits that would have been better with some explanation. This primarily applies to the "Death of a Lady's Man" section (not to be confused with the "Death of a Ladies' Man" section which was poems from the album of that name) which had intermittent "commentary" attached to various poems, but it appears (from the one brief note that is in the book) that some of those commentaries have been re-framed as poems for this edition, etc. ... plus the fact that these "commentary" bits are in a particularly sarcastic 3rd person talking about Cohen, which is rather confusing.

Anyway ... if you like Leonard Cohen, you might like this volume. If you've just heard of Leonard Cohen (and maybe know a few of his songs), I think you have a better chance of liking Stranger Music. It appears that this is out of print, but you can get it via the Amazon new/used vendors in "very good" condition for about $7.00 (it was originally $24 when it came out in 1993). If you really want a "new" copy, though, you'll have to cough up a hundred bucks ... go figure!

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