You once said that “the angels of mercy are other people.”1 What does that mean? And what is the relationship between angels and language?
I don’t know. One of the things I always liked about the early Beatnik poetry — Ginsberg and Kerouac and Corso– was the use of the word ‘angel.’ I never knew what they meant, except that it was a designation for a human being and that it affirmed the light in an individual. I don’t know how I used the word ‘angel.’ I’ve forgotten exactly, but I don’t think I ever got better than the way that Ginsberg and Kerouac used the word in the early fifties. I always loved reading their poems where they talked about angels. I’ve read a lot of things about angels. I just wrote a song with Lewis Furey called ‘Angel Eyes.’ I like it as a term of endearment: ‘Darling, you’re an angel.’ I mean the fact that somebody can bring you the light, and you feel it, you feel healed or situated. And it’s a migratory gift. We’re all that for other people. Sometimes we are and sometimes we aren’t. I know that sometimes it’s.just the girl who sells you cigarettes saying ‘have a good day’ that changes the day. In that function she is an angel. An angel has no will of its own. An angel is only a messenger, only a channel. We have another kind of mythology that suggests angels act independently. But as I understand it from people who have gone into the matter, the angel actually has no will. The angel is merely a channel for the will.
Leonard Cohen: Various Positions as interviewed by Robert Sward Montreal 1984.
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 Mar 6, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.