“One of the images I had of myself came from reading Chinese poetry… There was a kind of solitary figure in some of those poems by Li Po and Tu Fu. A monk sitting by a stream.” Leonard Cohen’s Foreshadowing Of His Time As A Zen Monk

It is often said that Cohen is hard to define. There’s Cohen, the son of a prominent Montreal clothier and the grandson of a Jewish scholar. Cohen, the law-school dropout. Cohen, the novelist, the poet, the songwriter. Cohen, the sexual bad boy who becomes a monk. But he disagrees.

 

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I always felt it was of one piece. I never felt I was going off on a tangent. Mainly because I think we develop images of ourselves quite early on, and certainly one of the images I had of myself came from reading Chinese poetry at a very young age. There was a kind of solitary figure in some of those poems by Li Po and Tu Fu. A monk sitting by a stream. There was a notion of solitude, a notion of deep appreciation for personal relationships, friendships, not just love, not just sensual or erotic or the love of a man or a woman, but a deep longing to experience and to describe friendship and loss and the consequences of distance. So those images in those poems had their effect, and thirty years later, I found myself in robes and a shaved head sitting in a meditation hall. It just seemed completely natural.

 

Leonard Cohen

 

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007). Find more information about these Chinese poets at Li Po & Tu Fu.

The Leonard Cohen Reading List

Li Po and Tu Fu are the latest entries to the Authors Leonard Cohen Admired Without Denoting A Specific Work section of the Leonard Cohen Reading List, a compilation of books read by the Canadian singer-songwriter.

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Apr 11, 2018.

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