The Flame

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The Flame
By Leonard Cohen
Edited by Robert Faggen & Alexandra Pleshoyano
Canongate – £20.00

I drank a lot, i lost my job
I lived like nothing mattered.
then you stopped, and came across
my little bridge of fallen answers.

[…]

your remedies beneath my hand
your fingers in my hair
the kisses on our lips began
that ended everywhere.
[…]

and not because of what I’d lost
and not for what i’d mastered
you stopped for me, and came across
the bridge of fallen answers.

                                                               ‘Drank A Lot’

What can one possibly say about the wonderful Leonard Cohen that hasn’t already been eulogised and lamented upon since his passing in 2016?

Apart from the fact that The New York Times has since written: ”Leonard Cohen was the poet laureate of the lack, the psalmist of the privation, who made imperfection gorgeous,” and the equally wonderful Nick Cave has described him as: ”utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried;” it is indeed, nigh impossible to capture everything the Canadian poet and musician was essentially about.

So might it not be wise to let (just some of) Cohen’s own work do the work?

The Flame is an immaculate conception/collection of his final poems, writings and illustrations, that he himself selected and collected in the final months of his life. Suffice to say, it sheds shards of luminous light unto much of the transcendental thinking for which Cohen was so renowned – from isolation to devout despair, from religion to the utmost capability of romance.

To be sure, these 270 pages (excluding his son, Adam Cohen’s Foreword, Editorial Note, Index of Titles, Drawings, First Lines and Acknowledgements) wholeheartedly substantiate the degree to which Cohen, like Dylan, always remained as strong a poet as he was a musician.

The above opening lines from ‘Drank A Lot’ suggest as much, wherein the opening stanza concludes with: ”my little bridge of fallen answers,’ while the conclusion of the sixth stanza (within the actual song) concludes with: ”the bridge of fallen answers (my italics). The metaphorical ‘bridge’ is no longer his; it has become the subject matter over which he now speaks – dare I say it, objectively. The eventual preponderance of which is delivered is most astutely suggested by stanza fourteen:

and every guiding light was gone
and every sweet direction-
the book of love I read was wrong
it had a happy ending

it had a happy ending (again, my italics).

So Cohen.
So idiosyncratically immaculate.
So deservedly devastating in intuition.

Likewise, many of the poems throughout The Flame – whether it’s ‘Homage To Rosengarten’:

As we walk hand in hand
Through the bewildering and shabby insignificance
Of our official corrected public and private daily lives
And here She is:
Fully born from herself

Or ‘Jan 15, 2007 Sicily Café’:

In the radiant light
Where there’s day and there’s night
And truth is the widest embrace

This is a book which both totally embraces and captures the essence of Cohen’s majestic brilliance (there again, he wrote it).

David Marx

 

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