Cover image for The flame : poems and selections from notebooks / Leonard Cohen.
Title:
The flame : poems and selections from notebooks / Leonard Cohen.
ISBN:
9780771024412
Edition:
Hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
275 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Poems.

Includes index.
Abstract:
The Flame is a stunning collection of Leonard Cohen's last poems, selected and ordered by the author in the final months of his life. Featuring lyrics, prose pieces, and illustrations, the book also contains an extensive selection from Cohen's notebooks, which he kept in poetic form throughout his life, and offers an unprecedentedly intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist and thinker. An enormously powerful final chapter in Cohen's storied literary career, The Flame showcases the full range of Leonard Cohen's lyricism, from the exquisitely transcendent to the darkly funny. By turns devastatingly sad and winningly strange, these are the works of a poet and lyricist who set out to explore our darkest questions and came back wanting, yearning for more.
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Summary

Summary

The final work from Leonard Cohen, Canada's most celebrated poet and an artist whose audience spans generations and whose work is known and loved throughout the world.

The Flame is a stunning collection of Leonard Cohen's last poems, selected and ordered by the author in the final months of his life. Featuring lyrics, prose pieces, and illustrations, the book also contains an extensive selection from Cohen's notebooks, which he kept in poetic form throughout his life, and offers an unprecedentedly intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist and thinker.

An enormously powerful final chapter in Cohen's storied literary career, The Flame showcases the full range of Leonard Cohen's lyricism, from the exquisitely transcendent to the darkly funny. By turns devastatingly sad and winningly strange, these are the works of a poet and lyricist who set out to explore our darkest questions and came back wanting, yearning for more.


Author Notes

Leonard Norman Cohen was born in Montreal, Canada on September 21, 1934. He received a degree in English from McGill University and studied literature at Columbia University for a year. His first collection of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies, was published in 1956. His other collections of poetry include The Spice-Box of Earth, Flowers for Hitler, Death of a Lady's Man, Poems and Songs, and Book of Longing. He also wrote two novels entitled The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers.

He was a musician and songwriter for almost five decades. He recorded 14 studio albums including Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room, Songs of Love and Hate, Ten New Songs, Dear Heather, Popular Problems, and You Want It Darker. He wrote numerous songs including Hallelujah, Suzanne, Dress Rehearsal Rag, Bird on a Wire, The Story of Isaac, Famous Blue Raincoat, Dance Me to the End of Love, First We Take Manhattan, Everybody Knows, and Tower of Song. In 2008, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010, he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

New York Review of Books Review

when A poet dies, his publishers often hurry into print whatever scraps lie stuffed in his desk drawers or overflow his wastebasket. This is the book business at its darkest and most human, but many balance sheets have been balanced by a posthumous work or two. Death is the moment when all eyes are upon the poet for the last time; beyond, for most harmless drudges, lies the abyss. Leonard Cohen, who died two years ago, wore many a fedora - poet, novelist, songwriter, a singer of sorts - but only the last trade, which he took up reluctantly, made him a star. Cohen was never taken very seriously as a poet. He wasn't much of a singer, either; but the gravelly renderings of his lyrics gradually attracted a mass audience that seemed more like a cult. Many found him a bit much, his heart-on-his-sleeve misery no more appealing than plunging your hands into boiling tar. Still, songs like "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire" and the rather preposterous hymn of praise "Hallelujah" have been so widely covered as to be nearly inescapable. At any moment of the day, "Suzanne" is probably playing in an elevator somewhere. Such songs now form the hoarse, moaning soundtrack to countless movies and television episodes. When a Cohen song rises from some awkward silence it's a good bet the director has run out of ideas. The religiose sentimentality and painful growl, like a halibut with strep throat, have patched a lot of plot holes. He'll give an emulsified version of everything the scriptwriter left unsaid. "The Flame" has a little of everything for Cohen fans and nothing for anyone else. The publicity matter claims the stray work has been "carefully selected"; but if this is the best of his barrel scrapings, there's not much barrel to scrape. With a plan laid down by the singer himself, the editors have included his own choice of some 60 poems, the lyrics from his last four albums and a long dreary selection of notebook jottings. The pages have been decorated with 70 or so rumpled self-portraits (the singer's amour propre came streaked in selfloathing), with a dozen amateurish doodles of young women thrown in. That perhaps represents the internal proportions of Cohen's famous vanity and his equally famous lechery - I mean, of course, his search for a muse variously named Marianne, Sahara, Vanessa, Charmaine, Anjani, Mara, Sheila, Heather, Carolina and Olivia. How awful had any of his passing fancies passed unnoticed. The poems are monotonous scribbles of the moody-undergraduate school, what young Werther would have sung had he been Canadian: ? apple of the world we weren't married on the surface we were married at the core I can't take it anymore. The long miseries and brief graces of love are Cohen's obsessive subject. Some famous love poems by Bemart de Ventadorn and Dante sound almost as bad when translated, but Cohen doesn't have that excuse. The poems might seem that much better in Provençal or Hiscan. Cohen favors an Audenesque quatrain with none of the puckish genius Auden used to refashion the form. What we get instead is: And from the wall a grazing wind weightless and serene wounds Me as I part Her lips and wounds Us in between And fastened here, surrendered to My Lover and My Lover, We spread and drown as lilies doforever and forever. Cohen loves "poetic" lines that are nearly excruciating ("And now that I kneel / At the edge of my years / Let me fall through the mirror of love"), rhymes that would cripple a musk ox (plug/ enough, sword/2005, art/Marx), and passages the C.I.A. should use only during enhanced interrogation (a couple "waving at desire / as it rests in the foreground / foothill-shaped, peaceful, / devoted as a dog made of tears"). The lyrics follow in cornucopian abundance, as if Cohen were possessed by a Dionysian mania forever unassuaged. Genial, sloppy, full of conventional lines, they sometimes have little twists that save them from disaster. Heavy on parallels and antitheses, they're even heavier on abstractions, the words just a syllable or two, on rare occasions three, almost never four: The parking lot is empty They killed the neon sign It's dark from here to St. Jovite It's dark all down the line. Cohen could turn this stuff out all day, and it's not half bad; but lyrics without music, even decent lyrics, look like dried lungfish in someone's den, mounted on varnished plaques. The difference between his lyrics and poems is tissue-paper thin except when he was writing some wretched approximation of free verse: His cry his perfect word pitched against The baffled contradictions of the heart Wrestling them embracing them Strangling them with a jealous conjugal desperation. Cohen was not a poet who accidentally became a lyricist; he was a lyricist who for years fooled himself into thinking he was a poet. As poems these squibs are worthless; as lyrics, even sung in that lizardy groan, they often moved millions. His voice, that broken, battered thing, could make almost any song - even "God Save the Queen," perhaps - sound lonesome, miserable, profound. If singing badly is no bar to stardom, everyone who stands caterwauling in the shower should take hope. You might not even need a whiskey-andbattery-acid cocktail to get there. The final section consists of disordered entries from the hundreds of notebooks Cohen picked up and pitched down over the years (one was discovered in his refrigerator freezer). Fans who have pined for wisdom like "I think, therefore I am / right up there with / Mary had a Little Lamb" or "I was thinking / of a room in Westminster / room / with a woman from Hell / who thought she was hot" may at last be gratified. (The book reproduces the manuscript of the latter. That extra "room" is a bad editorial decision - Cohen was probably just trying to clarify his handwriting.) In the notebooks, the singer writes, "Whatever happened to my place / in the Anthology of English Literature?" The better question is, Why should he be there in the first place? It's hard to understand the cult of Leonard Cohen, the thousands who flocked to concert after concert, leaving with a feeling of illumination or exaltation, the sort of things for which people usually receive get-well cards. There are artists we don't understand whom we are happy for others to love, and artists who attract an adoration that seems such a colossal mistake we can only shake our heads in bewilderment. Those who love Cohen may find in this gallimaufry the answer to their prayers. For everyone else, the only proper reaction is to shutter the windows and wait for the fever to pass. william logan is the author, most recently, of "Dickinson's Nerves, Frost's Woods: Poetry in the Shadow of the Past."


Library Journal Review

Renowned singer/songwriter Cohen (1934-2016) shares a deeply personal take on the wonders and challenges of life and love in this collection that will appeal not only to his fans but also anyone who loves beautiful lyrics that parse life's meaning. Cohen devotees, in particular, will be entranced by the many line drawings-mostly self-portraits-that extend the words in a kind of visual diary. (One caveat with the drawings-the words reproduced often appear too small for easy reading.) Cohen, who struggled to finish this work before his death, also included a dialog with a former teacher. Sometimes, the poet's language is ordinary and the line breaks arbitrary ("Vanessa called/ all the way from Toronto/ She said that I/ could count on her/ if ever I was/ down and out"), but even this poem is transformed by the title, "G-D Wants His Song." Far more eloquent and frequent are lines that examine life from the inside out: "The Heart beneath is teaching/ To the broken Heart above" and "If the sea were sand alone/ And the flowers made of stone." VERDICT An excellent addition for all poetry collections. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/18.]-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.