Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

The third act

A: Nothing’s over till it’s over, but I find myself in a graceful moment. More or less relaxed.

Q: So you can really experience a big difference in how you tackle things now compared to earlier?

A: I read somewhere that as you get older the brain cells associated with anxiety begin to die. I think if that’s true – in my case it seems to be true – you can take it all a little more lightly.

Q: So the depressions that you had in your earlier days?

A: They’ve lifted. They’ve lifted completely.

Q: So ageing is quite nice?

A: In my case it’s been a great blessing.

Q: But there must be some hard part of it?

A: I think the collapse of the body is an aspect of it. And I’m not in old age, you know. I think I’m in that good period before the onset of the diseases that eventually kill you. I think it was Tennessee Williams said, ‘Life is a fairly well written play, except for the third act’. It’s a very bad third act.

Q: But for you it’s the best so far?

A: Beginning the third act is fine. I don’t know how the third act will unfold, but it doesn’t unfold very well for anybody. So I’m probably in the most graceful period that I’ve ever experienced, before the onset of this unpleasant destruction of the body, which is inevitable.

— Leonard Cohen, interview



Q: When people speak about your poems and when you read them, it can seem like they contain a certain portion of depression, paranoia, pessimism. But you seem to have decided to be happy over the years. Is that true?

A: I don’t know what happened. I wish I could tell you. It just got to feel better after a while. But I think that what we call seriousness is sometimes confused with depression. So much of this popular culture is devoted to pretending that nobody has any deep feelings and nobody sweats and nobody is in trouble. And the truth is that we’re all in trouble. Every single person is in trouble, with themselves, with their loves, with their work. So I think it’s a great privilege to be serious. I think it’s a great gift to be serious sometimes, and to be deeply serious about ourselves, about our lives, about our friends. That seriousness is often confused with depression. But to tell you the truth I’ve often felt bad. I was depressed, I wasn’t just serious.

Q: When did you last have a breakdown?

A: I tend to break down when I make a record. And I think you have to. If you’re going to destroy the versions of yourself that provide too easy a solution. So you know, someone comes along in yourself and he has a slogan, he has a view on love, he has a position on the world. Those kinds of persons that arise make very boring songs, so you have to annihilate them. You have to murder them. And to murder all those false persons that arise and try to tell you what the song is, to get to that place where you can defend every word, that takes a slaughter. And you really gotta break down.

Q: You write to murder. Or you murder by writing?

A: I write to murder the selves that whisper untruths to me.

Interview with Leonard Cohen

You work with what you’ve got

There are people who work out of a sense of great abundance. I’d love to be one of them but I’m not. You just work with what you’ve got.


When I speak of depression I speak of a clinical depression that is the background of your entire life, a background of anguish and anxiety, a sense that nothing goes well, that pleasure is unavailable and all your strategies collapse. I’m happy to report that, by imperceptible degrees and by the grace of good teachers and good luck, depression slowly dissolved and has never returned with the same ferocity that prevailed for most of my life. I read somewhere that as you grow older certain brain cells die that are associated with anxiety so it doesn’t really matter how much you apply yourself to the disciplines. You’re going to start feeling a lot better or a lot worse depending on the condition of your neurons.


Well, you know, we’re talking in a world where guys go down into the mines, chewing coca and spending all day in backbreaking labour. We’re in a world where there’s famine and hunger and people are dodging bullets and having their nails pulled out in dungeons so it’s very hard for me to place any high value on the work that I do to write a song. Yeah, I work hard but compared to what?

— Leonard Cohen, interview

I’m reluctant to call [my work] poetry. I like your idea of footnotes, or notes or some other kind of activity, because I think there is an enterprise called poetry today and I don’t really feel part of it […] I don’t have that mind that seems to be valued today. I can’t understand a lot of the stuff that’s written.

Leonard Cohen, via here

The Window

A blond boy wearing thick glasses just looked in my window, or rather at my window, for he used it as a mirror in which he confirmed his coiffure and his expression. I was afraid he might catch sight of me behind his reflection but he quit his work unaware of the self-centred host of this sunken room, and I did not have to confront him in the midst of his vanity.

— Leonard Cohen, ‘The Window’

A certain sweetness

There was just a certain sweetness to daily life that began asserting itself. I remember sitting in the corner of my kitchen, which has a window overlooking the street. I saw the sunlight shining on the chrome fenders of the cars, and thought, ‘Gee, that’s pretty’. I said to myself, ‘Wow, this must be like everybody feels’. Life became not easier but simpler. The backdrop of self-analysis I had lived with disappeared. It’s like that joke: ‘When you’re hitting your head against a brick wall, it feels good when it stops’. When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. It happened to me by imperceptible degrees and I could not really believe it; I could not really claim it for some time. I thought there must be something wrong. It’s like taking a drink of cold water when you are thirsty. Every tastebud on your tongue, every molecule in your body says thank you.

Leonard Cohen

Waiting for the Miracle

I don’t believe you’d like it,
You wouldn’t like it here.
There ain’t no entertainment
and the judgements are severe.
The Maestro says it’s Mozart
but it sounds like bubble gum
when you’re waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Waiting for the miracle
There’s nothing left to do.
I haven’t been this happy
since the end of World War II.

Nothing left to do
when you know that you’ve been taken.
Nothing left to do
when you’re begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you’ve got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come.
When you’ve fallen on the highway
and you’re lying in the rain,
and they ask you how you’re doing
of course you’ll say you can’t complain —
If you’re squeezed for information,
that’s when you’ve got to play it dumb:
You just say you’re out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

— Leonard Cohen, from ‘Waiting for the Miracle’

I wouldn’t call myself a religious man. I don’t believe in any version of God that I can come up with. Sometimes a deep appetite for prayer arises, and I pray. Where my prayer is addressed, I would not dare to say. I would not dare to try to describe where my prayer is aimed. Any opinion about this matter that I’ve ever come up with I have very little respect for. I have little respect for most of my opinions, but this one I have no respect for.

Leonard Cohen

As the world becomes more and more baffling and bewildering, one is thrown back on one’s own shabby little story. [The Book of Longing] is just my little story.

Leonard Cohen

The great event

It’s going to happen very soon. The great event which will end the horror. Which will end the sorrow. Next Tuesday, when the sun goes down, I will play the Moonlight Sonata backwards. This will reverse the effects of the world’s mad plunge into suffering for the last 200 million years. What a lovely night that will be. What a sigh of relief, as the senile robins become bright red again, and the retired nightingales pick up their dusty tails and assert the majesty of creation.

— Leonard Cohen, ‘The Great Event’