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Review of 'Book of Longing' by Leonard Cohen

This attractive book of Leonard Cohen’s poetry, prose-poems and artwork, was taken from content that first appeared on

Some became song lyrics, and many in their current form, do have that feel. Indeed, it is these shorter and more lyrical pieces of writing that speak to me the most. Consider stanza 7 from the poem, 'Better'.

better than darkness

is darkless

which is inkier, vaster

more profound

and eerily refrigerated

filled with caves

and blinding tunnels

in which appear

beckoning dead relatives

and other religious


Some of the poetry is bewildering and clever, and I become overly aware of how many references I don’t understand. This is nobody’s fault but mine. The poem, ‘Fun’ is about believing in God.

It is so much fun

to believe in G-d

You must try it sometime

Try it now

and find out whether

or not

G-d wants you

to believe in Him.

And another short poem is called ‘Thousands’. It simply reads:

Out of the thousands

who are known,

or who want to be known

as poets,

maybe one or two

are genuine

and the rest are fakes,

hanging around the sacred precincts

trying to look like the real thing.

Needless to say

I am one of the fakes,

and this is my story.

Shorter still is ‘Sorrows of the Elderly’.

The old are kind.

The young are hot.

Love may be blind.

Desire is not.

The shorter and snappier poems appeal more to those of us who aren’t poets and aren’t that well informed either. However, I intend to pick up this book on future occasions and attempt to understand more of what I haven’t already picked up!

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