Why kudos?Well, I’ve been a fan of Leonard Cohen’s for about 30 years now.It’s great that he’s coming out with a new album, and it’s even better that the new album is good.Dear Heather, his last, was not among my favorites. So here I am, cruising through The New Yorker, and there he is.Nice.
Now for the sadness.First, it’s a song lyric.For that, it’s an excellent song lyric.
I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd He’s a lazy bastard Living in a suit
It’s a clever approach, and, when it’s surrounded by the light treatment of the song, it’s quite effective.But here, as simply the lyrics, I feel myself wanting to sing it, not speak it.I look at it imagining the music, and without the music, it deflates.Still and all, I’m happy to see it.
The sadness is that there are only two poems in this issue, and one of them is a song lyric.So this is what poetry has come to.Publications like The New Yorker bring poetry to people who might well have this as their only poetry contact.Leonard Cohen, as few albums as he will probably sell, and as worthy of wider notice as he is, no matter how few albums he sells, he will sell many times as many albums as the most widely distributed book of poetry.
We have these conversations now and then, about song lyrics and poetry, and I’m not interested in starting that conversation back up.What I’m interested in is a wider readership for poetry, and publishing Leonard Cohen (whom I admire very much) in the place of a poem that needs the readership much more, saddens me.
This is what I wish.I wish The New Yorker had published the lyrics to “Going Home” as an extra, a plus, to the regular poems.There are so few opportunities out there for poetry to get in the hands of a wider audience, that to lose even one is a pretty heavy loss.
That said, I also want to say that I’m pleased that publications like The New Yorker continue to publish poetry at all, and I’m doubly pleased to see that there is a new spirit of inclusiveness these days.