In those days, it was easy to join the rev­o­lu­tion


Ann Diamond's essay on the '70s and meeting Leonard Cohen @ Geist.
In 1966, when I was fif­teen years old, I saw Leonard Cohen sing “The Stranger Song” on Canadian tele­vi­sion. Not long after­wards, I took the sub­way from the dor­mi­tory sub­urb where I lived with my par­ents, into down­town Montreal and to Classics Bookstore, where I bought my first book of poetry, The Spice-Box of Earth, for which Cohen had won much crit­i­cal praise. Magic was afoot.In 1968, when I was start­ing uni­ver­sity, I went to my first poetry read­ing. At the Rainbow Bar and Grill.

Applause. A slight man in a dark jacket approached the stage, head down, and spoke to Lane for a moment, then melted back into the crowd. Lane told us Leonard Cohen had declined to read — he had come only to lis­ten. The audi­ence groaned in dis­ap­point­ment. In the inter­val a mad­man sud­denly stormed the stage, grabbed the mike and began to rave and weep. No one knew what to do, except Patrick Lane, who embraced him like a brother. The man returned to his seat and the crowd com­posed itself to lis­ten to the next reader, but every­one kept look­ing around for Leonard Cohen, who had vanished.

The fol­low­ing week a let­ter appeared in the pages of the stu­dent news­pa­per for which I was news edi­tor. It was signed by one of the poets who had read that same evening. Reaching back into the recent lit­er­ary his­tory of Montreal, the poet built a case accus­ing Leonard Cohen of “sell­ing out.” What exactly had been sold, and to whom? What had he done to deserve this rant­ing assault? At sev­en­teen I read hid­den knowl­edge, and no small amount of envy, between the lines.
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