The Ides of Poetry Month, and Coaching from Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, here we are day 15 of National Poetry Month here in these States Untied (no matter how I say it, it sounds like such a misnomer these days), and I still have not decided what poem I am going to read for you today. Ah well, this is not too unusual, but I still have house cleaning to do and at least one major errand to run, so this won’t be until later. I was again planning the outdoor reading, but that big yellow ball in the sky keeps doing his duck and run tricks. So we shall see.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some wise words from one of my heroes, Mr. Leonard Cohen. I first heard this prose poem of his earlier this week on PoetArt’s blog, and it fit nicely with some recent discussions I’ve had about just how to read. Sometimes I’ve found my readings too laced with emotion, while others thought it was too serious. I think Cohen gives a great perspective on the whole thing. I think I found something close to the complete text of the poem on Facebook which you can read here, but I recommend the first time just closing your eyes and letting his amazing voice do its voodoo on you.

My 15th reading will come, I promise, later this evening. Possibly it will be Charles Simic or Robert Lowell. For now, I turn the DadPoet stage over to one of the masters.

For more advice from Leonard, read this thoughtful interview that never really happened. She has her sources well documented though, and it was a delight to read.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. EJ says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I could listen to him endlessly.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Oh, and thanks for listening, EJ!


  2. Thanks so much for this post, Dave. I hadn’t been aware of the poetry facet of Leonard Cohen’s array of talents. I appreciate the video–revealing and inspiring.

    And, may I add, your own reading styles (yes, plural) I enjoy a lot. May I please link to your daily videos from my blog? I’d love to help spread the word about your project for this month!


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Oh heavens, yes! Thank you. Thanks for the comment on my reading styles. lol I try to do a reading that fits the poem… I guess it’s like this; you wouldn’t want to play a dirge in a major key. But then some people read the same no matter what. I do try to keep the style subtle though, so, as Leonard says, not to interfere with the words, with the poem itself, but rather to blend into it, to compliment and be part of the poem. That’s my goal anyway. It’s a learning process, and not all of these this month are as perfect as I would like, since I have limited myself on time. 🙂

      Again, thank you so much for the linkage! 🙂


  3. Cool! I do think your reading styles compliment each poem. And I hear you about the time constraints–but then again, is there ever enough time to spend with a poem you love?

    And thanks for the “yes.” I’ll be putting up a link within the next day. Cheers!


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Very kind of you. I appreciate the support. And yes, well said regarding time with loved poems. My partner is being so very supportive this month while I basically immerse myself in poetry, and get very little else done. I’m terribly lucky.

      When the month is over I will put more time into redoing my blog roll and yours will be one of the links. Thank you!


  4. And thanks back at ya! That’s very kind.


  5. David,
    You have been busy with posting and I have not had (made) the time to catch up. I do think in some ways it’s “easy” for him to say that… who doesn’t want to listen when he’s talking / reading… 🙂

    On a more serious note, reading as he describes, in my opinion, allows the poet to “talk” through the words of the poem and a “good” poem should be able to talk, express itself, paint the picture, make the reader feel the emotion, whether it’s being read silently or out loud. I think if a one does add too much expression etc. into their reading, they face the same problem that people (often professors) do when they say.. oh no, that’s NOT what the author (who I’ve never known, talked to, has been dead for 100 years etc.) means… that’s a wrong interpretation.

    Does that make it wrong to be expressive when reading out loud? I think the answer is no, much like choosing photos or video to display while the poem is being read. It’s not wrong, you just have to accept that others may not agree with your interpretation. And if you’re the one watching / listening to the interpretation, you have to recognize it as just that, an interpretation.

    I can say that I’d much rather hear him or you read a poem then a robotic voice… does that make sense with what I’ve said above??

    Interesting post… Thanks




    1. sonofwalt says:

      Good comments, Stephen. I think you make a valid point in saying that basically any presentation of a poem involves interpretation. The photos, the music, the background, the inflection, the speed, the pause. All we can do is be true to what we think the poem wants us to do.

      I will say though that sometimes I’ve seen it go too far, even in my own readings (well, not often, but sometimes, just a little too far). There are those who really go over the top, “jumping the shark,” as the saying goes. Are you familiar with that phrase? I just learned it recently?


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