Leonard Cohen and Allen Ginsberg – “An encounter with Leonard Cohen after a poetry reading at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. c.1988 – “Cohen was in the audience and Allen was in the lobby signing books after the show. They couldn’t stop talking” – Photograph courtesy Frank Beacham
Leonard Cohens birthday today. He’s 80 years old. Robert Sward: You once said that “the angels of mercy are other people”. What does that mean? And what is the relationship between angels and language?
Leonard Cohen: I don’t know. One of the things I always liked about the early Beatnik poetry – Ginsberg and Kerouac and Corso – was the use of the word “angel”. I never knew what they meant, except it was a designation for a human being and that it affirmed the light in an individual. I don’t know how I used the word “angel”. I’ve forgotten exactly, but I don’t think I ever got better than the way Ginsberg and Kerouac used the word in the early ‘fifties. I always loved reading their poems where they talked about angels. (Leonard Cohen, 1984 – from an interview with Robert Sward)
Here’s some early Leonard Cohen, a CBC interview (with Adrienne Clarkson) from the mid ’60’s
While we’re at it, here’s links to some other Cohen documentaries – Leonard Cohen in 1970 at the Isle of Wight and Tony Palmer’s (revealing documentation from the ‘Seventies) and, more recently (but only the trailer, unfortunately) Lian Lunson’s 2005 over-view, I’m Your Man One documentary that’s riveting and should on no account be missed is this – Spring 1996, Leonard Cohen as a monk – about his time spent in the mid ‘Nineties at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, forty miles east of Los Angeles
And there’s more…There’s something utterly delightful in the dynamics between him and his pretty Scandinavian interviewer – from 2006 – (allowing him to flirtatiously open up) – see here, here and here and from Pierre Tétrault’s documentary film of the same year, (about his schizophrenic brother, Philip), This Beggar’s Description”
Tétrault: Do you know, if you ever quit as a Zen Buddhist, you could be a Professor at McGill in English.
Leonard Cohen: Yeah, I really look forward to that!
Sitting in the park, shooting the breeze with Leonard: