They got the wrong poet



The Nobel Prize in literature this year did not go to a marxist feminist Mayan construct of propaganda, Rigoberta Menchu. It went instead to Bob Dylan, the master of American song forms, bluesman, and chameleon of personae.

Close, but no cigar. In fact, not even close.

Leonard Cohen is incomparably superior as a poet/songwriter.

He remains creative, deep, religious, and musical into his last days.

What I find amusing in Cohen’s middle-aged and older fans is the gap between their secular humanist world view, on the one hand,  and their cheering his religious despair over a godless world, on the other. “Stick it up the hole in your culture”, says Rabbi Cohen, who is telling us that the current state of affairs cannot continue. God will not be mocked. Yet Cohen manages to escape unscathed for giving the world a message that would be ignored and derided if it came from a Protestant clergyman. Is it the humour? Is it the ironic tone? Is it the charm?

When he calls us to repent, he is not kidding; he is not being ironic; he is not being hip, or cool. He is in earnest.


“The Future”

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won’t be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant

You don’t know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I’m the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I’ve seen the nations rise and fall
I’ve heard their stories, heard them all
but love’s the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It’s over, it ain’t going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil’s riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder

Things are going to slide …

There’ll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There’ll be phantoms
There’ll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You’ll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
coming round
tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin’

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don’t like children anyhow
I’ve seen the future, baby:
it is murder

Things are going to slide …

When they said REPENT REPENT …

How many unpopular causes are championed in this song? To see the Volvo-drivers cheering Leonard Cohen when I last saw him was a moment of highest irony.