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. read more