A Man, A Poet, A Lover

Leonard Cohen's Flame Will Never Extinguish

BY: Claire Connors

The Flame, the final work by the deeply profound poet, novelist, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, landed on the New York Times Bestseller List within minutes of being of released earlier this month. Although Cohen’s health was failing in the last year of his life, his heart and mind were as sharp and soul-searching as when his prolific writing career began in 1956.

Born in Montreal, Cohen studied writing at McGill University, eventually moving to Greece to concentrate on his poetry. In 1966, he turned to songwriting with the romantic ode “Suzanne,” which became a huge hit for Judy Collins (and is also one of his most covered songs). Collins encouraged him to find his “voice” as a singer, and an internationally beloved star was born. His brilliant song, “Hallelujah,” has been covered by over 200 artists, including Jeff Buckley‘s almost prophetic version. Twenty-two years later, when Cohen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, they said of him, “For six decades, Leonard Cohen revealed his soul to the world through poetry and song—his deep and timeless humanity touching our very core. Simply brilliant. His music and words will resonate forever.”

Throughout his musical career, he continued to publish socially pertinent poetry that touched fans, both young and old. He was a gifted master of words, shaking his fists at the idiocy of our society, evoking the misery of living, and embracing the bittersweet ecstasy of love, often all at once. The Flame features lyrics, personal journal entries, drawings, and new, often scathing poems. We’ve included a recording of one of our favorites, a brutal take-down of Kanye West, read by actor Michael Shannon, below.

In the forward for The Flame, his son, Adam Cohen, writes, “This volume contains my father’s final efforts as a poet. It was what he was staying alive to do, his sole breathing purpose at the end.” The Flame is a perfect example of Leonard Cohen’s relentless ability to make us feel…everything: Love, sorrow, joy, pain, mortality, and endless grace. He died almost exactly two years ago and the world is a much less interesting place without him.