RMSYL 32: Queen Victoria by Leonard Cohen (read by H.J. Hampson)

Heather Hampson reading Leonard Cohen_3I so enjoyed Heather Hampson reading from the International Treasure that is Leonard Cohen that I thought it might be worth commiting to memory some of his favourite songs for my By Heart quest. You would think, having listened to these songs for two decades, I’d already have by-hearted a fair few, but it would appear that I am one of those people who takes in the aggregate of a song, with only the odd line sinking into the memory bank[1]. How many of Leonard Cohen’s songs truly stand up as poems? Is this because his lugubrious delivery so indelibly pigments the words that one can never recite them again without feeling locked into his rhythms and melody, fettered as it were in the Tower of Song (do-dumb-dumb-dumb/da-doo-dumb-dumb)? Or did Cohen’s lyrical poems become more watered down and less linguistically adventurous as he transformed into a songwriter? Even the great ‘Anthem‘, with that oft-quoted line about the “crack in everything /That’s how the light gets in” reads off the page a tad light and doggereled at times:

The birds they sang at the break of day Start again I heard them say Don’t dwell on what has passed away …

This is not the case with Queen Victoria – a cracking poem (but an extremely leaden song). So what Cohen songs work well as poem for you? Suggestions welcome. [Heather’s novel, The Vanity Game can be purchased for the price of a cuppa from this purveyor of electro-words.  “The Vanity Game eviscerates celebrity culture with the incisiveness of an expert surgeon – but with a giddy, over-the-top pleasure that’s exhilarating.” – Megan Abbott Leonard Cohen’s ‘Queen Victoria’ can be read online here, and bought in song-form for the cost of an overpriced Skinny Latte on the album Live Songs.]

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. This is a more affirmative way of saying that I have the memory of a Leonard Shelby.

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