Category Archives: Arts: Poetry

When In Doubt: More Leonard Cohen

[NOTE: I’m a latecomer to Leonard Cohen fandom. His early songs seemed gloomy, slight and self-indulgent, his young voice nasal and whiny. I much preferred Bob Dylan then.

But when a good friend gave me his album “Democracy” thirty or so years later the title song and several others bowled me over: his voice had aged into a superb gravelly instrument, perfectly tuned to his mature melancholy. And there were so many lines and couplets and images in his poetry that became breathtaking, unforgettable. I realized I had grown largely indifferent to Dylan, and felt his Nobel was misplaced: it should have gone to the mystic of Montreal.

But if Leonard didn’t shrug off the  slight, the Zen-master Cohen would have, so what the hell? When I saw him live, in Brooklyn in 2013, he seemed completely real, and the performance meticulously rehearsed and intricately authentic.]

The Guardian — Oct. 3, 2022

Tim Adams

A Ballet of Lepers by Leonard Cohen review – intimations of immortality

A fascinating collection of early fiction foreshadows motifs and concerns that Cohen the performer later mined across decades

This collection of Leonard Cohen’s early fiction – a novella and 15 short stories, plus a play script – was all written between 1956 and 1961, before Cohen really thought of himself as a songwriter or performer. He didn’t release his first record until 1967, when he was 33. The bulk of the pieces might be classified as unpublished juvenilia except, of course, that the composer of Famous Blue Raincoat and Hallelujah was never wholly young and free of care.

The title piece, written when Cohen was 22 and doing postgraduate study in law at McGill University in Montreal, justifies the decision to bring these things to light and not only for the insights it offers into the artist that Cohen was to become. The novella is a strange confessional – it is hard to imagine Cohen writing in any mode other than the first person – involving a youngish office worker, his doomy occasional lover Marylin and the aged Jewish “Grampa” who unexpectedly arrives to share his one-room apartment in Montreal.

It has a subliminally rhyming opening that, you might say, sets the gravelly spoken-word tone for all the 60 years to come: “My grandfather came to live with me. There was nowhere else for him to go. What had happened to his children? Death, decay, exile – I hardly know. My own parents died of pain. But I must not be too gloomy, at the beginning, or you will leave me and that, I suppose, is what I dread the most. Who would begin a story if he knew it were to end with a climbing chariot or a cross?”

As ever in Cohen’s work, that inherited sense of anxiety and tragedy and religious weight of feeling – his uncle was the unofficial chief rabbi of Montreal, his maternal grandfather a famous rabbinical scholar – comes to be set against a dark wit and the intoxicating, troubling freedoms of the coming sexual revolution.

Marylin, the name itself a harbinger, matches the archetype of many of the author’s subsequent muses, idealised, unattainable and finally discarded. The comedy of their initial couplings, in which she is both his addiction and his torment and where their pillow talk occasionally catches cadences of the Song of Solomon, can sound like early Philip Roth. Their affair, though, is undone by the presence of Grampa, spitting and shitting and cursing and hitting out with his cane, in whose demented company Cohen’s narrator loses his own inhibition and starts to match his house guest in violence and taboo-breaking.

What follows is a curious and compulsive examination of the boundaries of honesty and cruelty. Taking his grandfather’s example, the narrator becomes briefly and disturbingly sadistic towards a stranger, and then to his lover and his landlady; a sort of bohemian Canadian Raskolnikov. Cohen made four full drafts of the book before he gave up on it. You can see why the novella – poetically astute and quite psychologically unhinged – never found a publisher in the mid-50s, but also why Cohen considered it a more interesting book than his subsequent more conventional novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers, of nearly a decade later.

Cohen performing in Brooklyn, 2013.

That trajectory might also be traced in the stories that follow in this collection. Some were written in Montreal, later ones after Cohen had moved to Hydra island in Greece. There are familiar refrains, connection and lack of connection, intimacy and all its detailed discontents. One story is concerned with the complicated effects of a wife’s leg-shaving ritual on her husband’s libido. Here’s an exchange from A Week Is a Very Long Time that might serve to summarise the Montreal years: “She closed her eyes against his arm, ‘Oh, it’s been a beautiful week.’ He said, ‘You’re beautiful.’ She said, ‘Will we ever do this again?’ ‘Maybe you’re too beautiful,’ he said, because he didn’t want to say anything else.”

At the same time as he was writing these stories Cohen was also writing poetry, with more success, including, after his time in Greece, some of the lyrics – Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy – that would appear on his first album. Reading the final stories here is to witness his attention wandering from the form; what he calls in one his “jukebox heart” was already elsewhere.

A Ballet of Lepers by Leonard Cohen is published by Canongate (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at


NC Drag Queen Story Hour Goes On; Arrests stop Anti-Pride Riot in Idaho

Blow a kiss and strike a pose: Drag Queen Story Hour goes on as planned at Apex Pride

Raleigh NC News & Observer

The drag queen story hour is back on for this Saturday’s Pride Festival in Apex North Crolin, now that Equality NC has taken over after citing “disappointment” with town officials.

Reported by our media partner, ABC11 News. BY ABC11 Stormie Daie arrived at Saturday’s Apex Pride a few minutes late — event organizers said she had difficulty finding parking for her royal carriage — but like any good drag queen, she was fashionable in doing so.

Stormie Daie, a Durham-based drag queen, entered the Drag Queen Story Hour under the cover of her iridescent parasol, wearing a sparkly, light blue dress with puff sleeves. She walked through the crowd, waving to and greeting the dozens of children and adults gathered to see her, then sat down in her purple chair, ready to read.

Out of her rainbow-striped reusable tote bag full of books — one of many perks of the job, she said — Stormie Daie first selected “If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It,” a sing-along picture book that riffs on the popular kids’ song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

As she read the story aloud, the crowd of listeners joined in, blowing kisses and striking poses, as the book’s words instructed them to do.

Earlier this week, it seemed that Drag Queen Story Hour would not be included in this year’s Apex Pride, as the original sponsors of the event, the Apex Festival Commission, pulled the activity from the day’s line-up due to threats of violence. The activity was restored after another group, Equality NC, stepped in to sponsor Apex Pride in place of the Festival Commission, The News & Observer previously reported.

“It felt really important for us to hold down this space for the community, to work with folks who are supportive of the LGBTQ community, and make sure that the focus was not on the people who hate us, but the focus was on us and having these safe spaces,” Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, told The N&O at Saturday’s event.

Drag Queen Story Hour is a global organization that brings drag queens to libraries, schools, bookstores and other spaces to capture “the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood” and give children “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” The organization’s mission is to celebrate reading “through the glamorous art of drag.”

The Triangle-area chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour organized the activity for Apex Pride, bringing four drag queens, including Stormie Daie, to the event to read stories to children throughout the day.

Elise Chenoweth, director of the Triangle-area Drag Queen Story Hour, said the threats against the activity were “frustrating,” but she was glad the event went on as planned.

“We want kids to be able to take pride in themselves and their neighborhood,” Chenoweth said. “And no matter how different they feel, they can see themselves in someone, if only a book character or one of our readers.”

Stormie Daie read two other books to the crowd during the Story Hour: “’Twas the Night Before Pride,” about the anticipation and joy associated with yearly Pride Month events, and “My Rainbow,” about a mom who creates a rainbow wig for her transgender daughter.

As Stormie Daie read the books, kids and adults alike, many dressed in rainbow clothing, waved rainbow flags and cheered along. Amanda and Zach Prichard, who live in Apex, said they were already planning to attend Apex Pride with their children, Eleanor and Watson, before the controversy over the Story Hour activity. Eleanor Prichard, 7, who wore rainbow ribbons in her hair and had rainbow eye shadow on, was eager to get a photo with Stormie Daie after she finished her reading.

“We wanted to show our support for everybody in the community,” Zach Prichard said. “More importantly, we also wanted to show our kids what it means to support everybody of all kinds. We want to raise them to be very inclusive.”

When they heard about the threats of violence against the Story Hour and its organizers, the Prichards said they doubled-down on their decision to attend the event. “We didn’t want the negativity to win,” Zach Prichard said.

Washington Post: 31 tied to hate group charged with planning riot near LGBTQ event in Idaho

Police in Idaho arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields and an “operations plan” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday afternoon. Police said they were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.

Authorities received a tip about a “little army” loading into a U-Haul truck at a hotel Saturday afternoon, said Lee White, the police chief in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a city of about 50,000 near the border with Washington. Local and state law enforcement pulled over the truck about 10 minutes later, White said at a news conference.

Many of those arrested were wearing logos representing Patriot Front, which rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

The group’s founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, was among those arrested, according to jail records. Like the others, Rousseau was arrested on a charge of criminal conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. The arrestees were held on $300 bail. Some of the other men arrested also have been linked to the group.

A man is detained with a group of 31 people who were charged with criminal conspiracy to riot, in Coeur d’Alene. (North Country Off Grid/YouTube/Reuters)

In photos and videos posted on social media, a group of men dressed in hats, sunglasses, white balaclavas and Patriot Front’s signature khaki pants were seen kneeling on the ground with their hands zip-tied behind their backs as police officers kept watch. An onlooker taunted the group, yelling, “Losers!”

White said the people were headed to City Park, which was hosting Pride in the Park, an event advertised as a “family-friendly, community event celebrating diversity and building a stronger and more unified community for ALL.” Organizers did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment from The Washington Post on Saturday evening, but they wrote in a post to the group’s Facebook page that it was a “successful” event.

The group, North Idaho Pride Alliance, urged people to “stay aware of your surroundings this afternoon and evening” in the city.

Authorities had been aware of online threats leading up to the weekend, White said, so police had increased their presence in the city’s downtown. Two SWAT teams and officers from the city, county and state assisted in the arrests.

The Panhandle Patriots, a local motorcycle club, had planned a “Gun d’Alene” event on the same day as Pride in the Park to “go head to head with these people,” an organizer said in April during an appearance with state Rep. Heather Scott (R).

The organizer was not identified by name in a video but wore a vest bearing the alias “Maddog” and the insignia of the Panhandle Patriots group. He lamented that the Pride gathering would be “allowed to parade through all of Coeur d’Alene,” saying that “a line must be drawn in the sand” against such LGBTQ displays. Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post late Saturday.

In a news release posted on the group’s website, the Panhandle Patriots encouraged the community to “take a stand” against the LGBTQ “agenda.” It also suggested without evidence that “extremist groups” were trying to hijack the event to provoke violence and said the group would change its event name to “North Idaho Day of Prayer” in response.

Reached by phone late Saturday, a representative for the Panhandle Patriots declined to comment on the day’s events, telling The Post, “We are not answering questions right now.”

White did not mention a connection between the Panhandle Patriots event and the arrests. He said those arrested had come from several states “to riot downtown,” with riot gear, at least one smoke grenade and documents “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”

He did not see firearms at the scene of the arrest, he said, but emphasized the situation was “very fresh.”

However, firearms were present in the vicinity of the park, White said. Police had been in contact with the FBI “all day,” he said.

White noted that the authorities’ understanding of the situation was still developing and said at the news conference that law enforcement had not yet interviewed those arrested. Representatives for Patriot Front were unable to be reached for comment.

More charges are possible, White said. The first court appearances for those arrested will probably be on Monday, Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said.

Unmasked & Under the Knife!

Like others, I woke up on Feb. 24th to war, maybe the leading edge of World War Three. Big bummer; but there will be more to say about that later.

So instead, I got up, and went off to have a nose job.

Another one; in time for spring.

Neither event was my idea. A few weeks back, my annual visit to the dermatologist went well at first: She peeked, poked and prodded, and asked me what I was up to. I rattled on about the new book of Bill Kreidler’s wonderful Quaker speeches. Continue reading Unmasked & Under the Knife!