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Book of Longing (Popular Penguins)

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  3,548 ratings  ·  222 reviews
Leonard Cohen made his name as a poet before he came to worldwide attention as a singer and songwriter. Book of Longing was twenty years in the making and written in Montreal, Mumbai and during his retreat in Mt Baldy. These poems show the full range of one of the most influential and enigmatic writers of his generation.
Mass Market Paperback, 231 pages
Published 2010 by Penguin Group (Australia) (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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D. Pow
This book. This beautiful, beautiful book. Damn, I’m glad I picked this up. I’ve never read such a wonderful combination of sensual reverie, raw but fading lust and something damn close to Zen enlightenment. Cohen is a good, perhaps great poet, but he was also a practicing Zen monk when he wrote these poems as well as a long standing pilgrim in faith of the holiness of the body. For every poem extolling the benefits of Zazen and mindfulness you’ll read another of fruitful and unalloyed appreciat ...more
Ellen
Favorite Poems

The Book of Longing

I can't make the hills
The system is shot
I'm living on pills
For which I thank G-d

I followed the course
From chaos to art
Desire the horse
Depression the cart

I sailed like a swan
I sank like a rock
But time is long gone
Past my laughing stock
My page was too white
My ink was too thin
The day wouldn't write
What the night pencilled in

My animal howls
My angel's upset
But I'm not allowed
A trace of regret

For someone will use
What I couldn't be
My heart will be hers
Impersonally

She'l
...more
Ryk
One of the best lessons I learned from this book is to just let go and write, not worrying if it's going to be "good" or not. Don't get me wrong- there is incredible poetry in here (along with often very astute drawings) but there is also a lot "I promised myself I would write something". Some of it is inspired, some not.

Included are lyrics to a few of my favorite Cohen songs, like "Alexandra Leaving" and "Love Itself" which only makes the collection better.

Most of the poems/scribblings concern
...more
Andrew
Leonard Cohen's poetry is... uneven. Some of the poems in this volume are wonderful little incantations. Others strike me as song lyrics-- and the unfortunate thing about song lyrics is that they tend to make horrible poetry, even if they're great lyrics, and a great lyricist Leonard Cohen undoubtedly is. And yet others are Zen-inspired pabulum that seemed fine in Allen Ginsberg's day, but now-- especially that I live in a Buddhist country, and have developed a repulsion towards Buddhism equal t ...more
Pete daPixie
Leonard, the horny old Jewish priest, returns from the summit of Mount Baldy with his ten of songs. Published 2006, this collection of poems and songs with many pencil sketches to accompany the pages, covers mainly, his work over the last three decades.
Leonard Cohen is a poet, first and foremost. The book contains many self portrait drawings, as though the man is totally immersed in the search for soul. The poems radiate his wit and humour that is contained in much of L.C.'s works, but with prof
...more
Tara
I've known his music for a hundred years, and some poetry, but was inspired to explore more after hearing a Fresh Air interview with him recently that I thought was terrific.
Peycho Kanev
Sadly, this is the best poem in this book:

THOUSANDS


Out of the thousands
who are known,
or who want to be known
as poets,
maybe one or two
are genuine
and the rest are fakes,
hanging around the sacred
precincts
trying to look like the real thing.
Needless to say
I am one of the fakes,
and this is my story.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I'm not a huge fan of poetry, and I find most of it pretty alienating and annoying, but Cohen has such a lovely tone, and doesn't seek to be "clever" by being obtuse. Which means his poetry actually says something to me (and makes sense: I can understand what he's saying, or relate to it, or interpret it), which makes it something worth treasuring :)

Also, I love his drawings and sketches!
Andrea
The Book of Longing is a compilation of poems and sketches from Leonard Cohen's 'earlier poet days' and written during his time in a Buddhist monastery. They are poems of reflection, observation and personal experience being a man. As always, Mr. Cohen's poetry is poignant, playful, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating, brooding and enlightening. These poems are less lyrical, and closer to abstract musings, lending us glimpses or snapshots into his younger male life and comparing or lamenting his y ...more
Jeremy Bibaud
I really want to like Leonard Cohen. I'm not sure why, but I feel like he's a writer out of his time. I find myself drawn to his work but, disappointingly, have yet to read anything that I enjoy. I've even tried to listen to most of his music and it just doesn't work for me. I suppose it could be that I enjoy his persona more than his writing.

'Book of Longing' marks my last attempt to become a fan. There's probably 200+ pieces in total here and I would call it a stretch to say I even liked three
...more
Richard
if you like leonard then you'll enjoy this. some poems are rambling, one or two others are a little trite but for the most part the wry humour and linguistic skill is clear and present
Gia
I truly adore Cohen, I think he is most and foremost a poet, a brilliant one. I love his music and the inevitable poetry that you get with it.
This book is beautiful, the poems are sad, ironic, raw.
It is truly one of the best poetry compilations I've read, the reason I'm giving it four stars is because, in the middle of stunning poems, you'd get the occasional one that just seemed uninspired. Strongly recomend it.
kate
bono already confessed 'every artist is a cowboy every poet is a thief, all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief'. and so it is.

i have had this book for years and, after an endless rush of non-poetry moments, finally picked it up tonight and really liked it. cohen is self deprecating, torn between lust and enlightenment and older than the last time i read him. the result is erotic, questioning, wise and funny. the volume is filled with little drawings and prose, unbelievably short p
...more
Shannon
Some of Leonard Cohen's illustrations and poems are so simple, they make me think I can be as talented as he is but then I try. I fail. Don't be fooled, just because he uses less words, does not mean he has less talent.

I particularly loved the verses attached to the illustrations. I think I would probably like a collection of his that isn't around the theme of longing... Maybe his 'Book of Mercy' would be less dark.
Po Po
Some poems were just amazing and others were meh. (This is why it's just a 3 star.)

Ok-and here's something silly:

It was disturbing for me to read that such an old man still has sexual desires and still has sex.

I know, I should get over that... But seriously, he was born in 1934!! People born in that year are doing it still ?!


The poems I really liked -- (1) "separated" (2) "the flow" and (3) "Looking through my dreams"
Judy
I love this book. It sits where it can be picked up daily and dipped into. Each gem talks to me in a different way. I have read them all, some several times, but never cover to cover. Just open the covers and see who pops out. A lovely gift from a special person in my life.
Bea
This book came to me when life was rather bare. It delighted me. and still does, in many ways. It was a connection with the ways of words, and a writer, from my youth. It contains poems which write about the strangeness of spiritual wondering. And I found in it a couple of poems which make it to my 'funeral' collection.

It is a work of superogation to review Leonard Cohen. But tis book is a small pleasure, with sketches as well as poems and songs from a man who has lived and thought.

For me, two p
...more
mathilda_craft
This has got to be a book I HAVE to own.

Because poetry is so sweet and deep (not to say this particular author is; just in general) that you need to take time and care with it in order to absorb in it's right content. Poetry books are not to be read in one sitting. They are to be lapped at like a dog licking a puddle. Like a child sucking a lollipop. It's not as enjoyable, otherwise.


I like what I've read so far. He's much more simple in his wording that most poets I know of, but there is a lot o
...more
Andrew
I guess I don't get it. The drawings look like they were drawn in Microsoft Paint. The poems that spread over more than one page has a small Microsoft Word pointer finger leading the reader to the next page.

The poems seem lazy and most are about not worrying about quality or about getting erections.

Songs of Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite albums, and I enjoy most of his music. This lacks his usual complex imagery and multiple meanings. I wasn't able to experience anything more than a haunt
...more
Andy
This was the second of Cohen's books that I read, after Stranger Songs (which was itself a compilation of various song lyrics and excerpts from his poetry and prose). It was very good, but the material sometimes seemed to be beyond my grasp. This is very much a product of the more aged and angrier Cohen, as opposed to the softer feel of his '60s work. However, certain poems and especially many specific stanzas or lines shook me, so I must say that this was great. I look forward to reading it whe ...more
Jill
Poetry may be the most subjective kind of writing. There's so little in the way of clearly delineated "quality" -- when you read a bad poem, you know you've read a bad poem, but I, at least, can find it difficult to precisely articulate why (unless it's completely terrible). Often when I can, it has to do with the work being banal, either in diction or rhyme scheme. Call me pretentious, but I have a serious mental block when it comes to AABB or ABAB iambs. I feel like I should be playing pattyca ...more
Max Nemtsov
собрание тех - очень ценных - мгновений, когда поэт впускает тебя к себе, например, когда бреется по утрам перед зеркалом, и никакого тебя рядом быть просто не должно. ну и да - видимо, лучшее понимание Коэна приходит с возрастом
Guiltpop
If Leonard Cohen and his hopeful words had not come into my life, I'm not sure I'd still be alive today.

This book has Leonard looking back and examining his public image, his time as a "rock star," as well as his time in the monastery with grace and is full of nonjudgemental truths.

The art & drawings that accompany the words are beautiful as well.

His words are helpful and lovely. I'm not sure what else to say
Conner
As a fan of Leonard Cohen's music, I would like to be able to rate his poetry higher. I am of the opinion that he is one of the best songwriters of his generation, however (keep in mind that this is the first book of poems by him I have read) I found this to be an overall weak and bloated collection. As one reviewer before me noted, most of these poems do in fact read like song lyrics, and some of the best song lyrics of all time just wouldn't make great poems. It's a different sort of style tha ...more
Amanda
There's a red and blue and black and yellow bird on the cover of this book. But the insides are black and white which is more reflective of my memory. I shall write some poetry now and it will be very very good undoubtedly.
Sarah
keep coming back to read fragments of this whenever i'm in waterstones and cry every time
Deborah
I love Leonard Cohen's music but I think of him primarily as a musician. In the poem 'Titles' Cohen asks: "... and now Gentle Reader/in what name/in whose name do you come/to idle with me/in these luxurious/and dwindling realms/of Aimless Privacy?" Well, I came with the name musician and I left with the name musician poet. It's apparently impossible to divorce the two for me, and some do read more like songs than poems (but then some of his songs sing more like poems). I discovered that it reall ...more
Persianeyes
با شعر ها هیچ ارتباطی برقرار نکردم. نمیدونم شاید مشکل ترجمه بود.
Charlotte J.
Like Kafka, he loses me at the mysticism, and like Auden, it's when he captures the messy details of mundane life that my bones ache.

I love him best when he rhymes, and I laugh the most at his annotated self-portraits. And I feel him most intensely in passages read to me previously by the lover at my side, and this I cannot untangle from the language and the imagery and the joy of having read a book cover to cover for the first time in too long.

Somehow this feels deeply satisfying, and I suspec
...more
Fran
Jul 15, 2014 Fran rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Poetry lovers, song lovers, philosophers
Recommended to Fran by: Dorie Raven
If you're not interested in free form poetry and randomly recorded descriptive thoughts, you probably won't like Leonard Cohen's latest book of poetry. Much of what has been written creates vivid pictures of artists' haunts or religious treat; others contain the brutally honest doubts and reservations of a man in spiritual crisis. Cohen makes it plain that even as a holy man he is still human and that, as such, he still loves himself and others as sexual beings.

The poems are interspersed with qu
...more
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52060
Leonard Norman Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963.
Cohen's earliest songs (many of which appeared on the 1968 album Songs of Leonard Cohen) were rooted in European folk music melodies and instrumentation, sung in a high baritone. The 1970s were a musically restless period in which his inf
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“I don't remember
lighting this cigarette
and I don't remember
if I'm here alone
or waiting for someone.”
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“You go your way
I'll go your way too”
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