May 29, 2009


The Successful Poet: How Leonard Cohen made it big. (Lionel Tiger, 05.20.09, Forbes)

As at any college, we had the usual group of baffled arrogant self-selected earnest artiste-intellectuals who circulated around the town. We wanted, at the same time, to keep people out and expand our group, but always the criteria were about creative skill, surprising knack and sustained and socially critical activity. And stubbornness--otherwise known as ambition or high standards--which made the difference decades later.

One fellow was especially athletic and knowing in his aesthetic drive, and he wrote the finest poetry in the group. He took up singing poetry to music, and we would sometimes troll the same parties with music to try to attract the attention of women who were over-clothed against the fierce winter of the college season. We did some national broadcasting work together--it was sheer pleasure for lads without a business plan for life.

He lived a life untroubled by surface perturbations. He always sustained profound uncertainties about faith, the surprises of time and loyalty, questions that he continues to mine. When I came back from three years away from town, we met for a long walk, and then he offered to sing me the new songs he had written, which he said he felt obligated to perform for anyone who asked. We sat in the furnished room in which he lived to hear what were to become classic song poems of our time--which it was clear then they were going to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 29, 2009 6:52 AM
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