Happy 80th Birthday to Leonard Cohen! If you click here today, you’ll be able to preview some songs from his new album, Popular Problems, due out Sept. 23. One of my favorites is the last track: “You Got Me Singing.” And if you buy the album through this NPR site, you’ll benefit NPR as well.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Cohen says,
“A lot of young writers ask me for advice – mistakenly, because my methods are obscure and not to be replicated,” he explained. “The only thing I can say is, a song will yield if you stick with it long enough. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable duration. Sometimes a song [like “Born in Chains”] has to hang around for a decade or two before it finds its expression.”
“By contrast, the songs “You Got Me Singing” and “Did I Ever Love You” were written “very quickly,” he said. . . . .
“Some of them came together with shockingly alarming speed,” said Cohen, who recorded many of the songs at his home studio. “Usually, I take a long, long time – partly because of an addiction to perfection, partly just sheer laziness.”
In today’s New York Times Review section, Jason Karlawish, professor of medical ethics, in his article “Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry,” discusses Cohen’s announcement that he will resume smoking at age 80, which Cohen says is “the right age to recommence.” Karlawish says, “Our culture of aging is one of extremes. You are either healthy and executing vigorous efforts to build your health account, or you are dying. And yet, as we start to ‘ache in the places where [we] used to play,’ as one of Mr. Cohen’s songs puts it, we want to focus on the present.” At some point, he implies, though disagreeing with Mr. Cohen’s choice, “you have to start indulging in the pleasures of the present.”
Cohen, whom Steve and I saw here last year in Milwaukee, inspires me with the free gift he offers (see link above) on his 80th birthday. As I said at the beginning of this blog, I am preparing the “gift” of a recital and hopefully a new book on my 70th birthday next year. Hopefully they will all bring pleasure.
And Cohen is correct in that sometimes creative work “hangs around” for years before it “finds its expression.” Never throw anything out. Don’t give up on any draft. And enjoy the rejuvenation.
Speaking of which, here is a just-quickly-revised poem that has been “hanging around” for quite a few years, never published–until now. I never saw the metaphorical connection between the plant in the poem and the draft of a poem until now.
Bringing in a Plant in the Fall
for less light
As you carry your lush
out of the cold,
continue to water it
while it releases
Allow it to be
empty for a while.
Allow it to be
ugly for a while.
Allow it to be sad
for a while.
As the plant’s
drop, leaving bare
do not throw it away.
do not buy another.
for less light