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Book of Mercy

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,134 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Popular since its original publication more than 25 years ago, Leonard Cohen's classic book of contemporary psalms is now beautifully repackaged.
Internationally celebrated for his writing and his music, Leonard Cohen is revered as one of the great writers, performers, and most consistently daring artists of our time. Now beautifully repackaged, the poems in Book of Mercy
Paperback, 112 pages
Published March 15th 1986 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 1984)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  1,134 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, poetry, religion
I don't always understand Leonard Cohen. Sometimes his references are too deep or not in my pool of knowledge, but even when i don't understand his words, i understand the feelings. This book is written in prose, but it is pure poetry. To be more exact, it is psalms. A soul crying out for understanding, love, protection, and many other things. The feelings expressed are ecumenical, finding truth and expression in the stories and myths of several faiths. I am in awe of his writing.
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it
"Book of Mercy" is a collection of psalms, written in what seems to me as a very truthful tone with regards to the original, Biblical psalms. The three star rating is more because I didn't enjoy the subject itself, but I should have the ability to give a separate rating of five stars to Cohen's artistry with words. This man is capable of amazing metaphors and the words just seem to flow in a constant, beautiful stream from his mind.
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Cohen sings from the gap. He knows exactly what his pain is all about, but that doesn't stop him from feeling it. He prays to a masculine God, which does not resonate so much for me, personally, but he is a Jewish man who believes in the Judeo-Christian divinity, and he sure isn't alone in that so I can't really fault him. My favorite verse from the collection is #27 which starts, "Israel, and you who call yourself Israel, the Church that calls itself Israel, and the revolt that calls itself Isr ...more
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of his most personal books of poetry. The Jewish symbolism and discourse is truly touching and his use of language is, as always, powerful. Leonard Cohen passed away this week and I could not ask for a more appropriate book to mourn him with. Rest In peace 'World's Last Troubadour'.

Second read (2019):
Cohen seems to be writing from a calmer space, however, many of the internal struggles present in Death of a Ladies man remain on Cohen's mind. Judaism, in the first set of poems, is portrayed a
Mar 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful prose poetry about the difficulties of faith. If you like his music, and you can tolerate a plethora of Biblical references, you'll enjoy this book quite a bit. He got me through college.
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
"Sing, my soul, to the one who move like music, who comes down like steps of lightning, who widens space with the thought of his name, who returns like death, deep and intangible, to his own absence and his own glory."

3.5 rating is due to my lack of understanding of biblical references and their history. The book are in the form of personal psalms, or praises sung for God or conversation with the soul. These are deep and profound. However, I still didn't enjoy the full collection.
Nigel Marshall
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I do not know the world is lied
I have lied
I do not know if the world has conspired against love
I have conspired against love
The atmosphere of torture is no comfort
I have tortured
Even without the mushroom cloud
still I would have hated
I would have done the same things
even if there were no death
I will not be held like a drunkard
under the cold tap of facts
I refuse the universal alibi

Like an empty telephone booth passed night
and remembered
like mirrors in a movie Palace lobby consulted
only on th
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I take this paperback version with me everywhere I go now so I can reread for new insights. I love his sometimes blunt, but courageous and graceful spiritual poetry.
David Fabijan
Not saying it's bad. I just think I need a degree in literature plus a few years of theological studies to actually get it. Or maybe I should at least read it again when I'm in a different state of mind.

It's really a shame. I love Cohen's music, but his poetry doesn't quite resonate with me, nor does his novel.
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book recently saved me from......well lets just same that his reworking of psalms speaks directly to the hungers and grace that finds my soul. Even if you are not a fan musically (I'm not much of one) you can gain from it.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
He spoke with a tongue of fire. These new psalms are contemplative, plaintive and yearning. They're also gorgeous. I miss Mr. Cohen.
Ala'a Tawfiq
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Leonard Cohen is spiritually sadomasochist.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning."
Dane Cobain
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is fine, it’s just not amazing. Part of the problem for that, though, is the fact that a lot of it went over my head. Cohen’s writing here is so deeply steeped in his religious beliefs that it’s somewhat off-putting if you’re an atheist, like I am.

Still, if you’re able to look past that and to take it at face value, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Cohen really had a way with words and it’s definitely in evidence here. If you like his songs, you’ll love this.
BC Batcheshire
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Very much like watching a broken man pound a neighbor's door, begging for his love to be returned.
Only his lover is the Hebrew God, and you want to tell the poor lovesick man that your neighbor went on vacation years ago but never came back.
So, four out of five here, because I'm godless but sympathetic to lovers.
Mar 25, 2019 added it
There is a certain ecclesiastical aura to this book--ironic, I know, since Cohen is Jewish. These poems, little psalms as each may be considered, moved me in unexpected ways.

Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I enjoy Cohen's music and poetry. What I don't enjoy about his music and poetry are the masculine and Judeo-Christian overtones. Unfortunately, these were a prominent part of this collection. Otherwise I strongly recommend this book to any admirers of Cohen. Unlike his other books, this is written in prose poetry. The book had the tone of a protest poem, and a mystical quality, both of which drew a direct comparison to the works of Kenneth Patchen.

"What I have not said, give me the courage to sa
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Defeated by silence, here is a place where the silence is more subtle. And here is the opening in defeat. And here is the clasp of the will. And here is the fear of you. And here is the fastening of mercy. Blessed are you, in this man’s moment. Blessed are you, whose presence illuminates outrageous evil. Blessed are you who brings chains out of the darkness. Blessed are you, who waits in the world. Blessed are you, whose name is in the world.
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a book of psalms, although it wasn't what I expected. I read it all of the way through and started to read it again. The writing is very rich with layers of meaning, like poetry. Some of it is a bit obscure for me, but overall I like it.
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Poetry/short essays about Cohen's search for higher power. Kinda boring. Book of Longing is 1000 times better, as is his songwriting.
Meghan Sutherland
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it
At 50, I’ll read this again, and then perhaps I’ll understand more.
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's difficult to know what to say about this book - it feels like I could spend a few hours trying to find the right words.

To start, let's maybe talk about what this book is. Overall, it is a religiously themed book which Cohen wrote when he was 50. He wrote it after a life of following the Jewish tradition, but with a definite awareness of other traditions, and the human relationship with the divine more broadly. He also wrote it before studying Zen Buddhism a few years later. But while the b
Zack Clemmons
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I made an abortive attempt at a Cohen biography earlier this year (I'm Your Man), and while 500+ pages on Cohen was too much to handle at the time, I did learn enough to be grateful for the Jewish formation which osmosis-ed into him (and would be intrigued to get more context on the year(s) which might contextualize this collection). Here is a man who has lived with the Psalms, who not only recognizes their form by ear, but can sing them truly, in their various modes of lament, confession, confr ...more
Sean Kottke
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, read-harder
Selected for Read Harder 2020 challenge #8: Read an audiobook of poetry. Long time fan of Leonard Cohen here, chiefly his musical oeuvre. This cycle of poems, coming between the Recent Songs and Various Positions albums, has a higher concentration of the wounded bravado of his redemption songs as opposed to the pitch black nihilism of his dark romantic songs. Or, as the God of Monty Python notes about "those miserable psalms": all "'sorry this' and 'forgive me that' and 'I'm not worthy'." These ...more
Diane Warrington
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
He originally wrote this in 1984. It's a compliation of his contemporary psalms once again exploring his relationship with God and how he works in the world. Always searching for meaning and understanding. Although these are modern they are in the tradition of a devotional and are resonating with me as I listen to his final album of songs "you want it darker." There is so much longing and sadness in these psalms but like John Donne this is the record of a personal relationship with God. Upliftin ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ginib
Each one of the 50 psalms, every one of them, spoke to my spirit. I knew the experience Cohen described. His writing reached into that place where we really live and exposed it for all to see. This isn't just Cohen writing about Cohen. He has tapped into the common bond we all share as we live life on this planet. Or I think so anyway. A true poet.
It's bold, gritty, honest. This is the kind of book you want your friends to read.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At first I was only going to give this four stars, because some of the Biblical references were lost on me. But... it's Leonard Cohen. And a lot of the psalms rang true with me. This made for interesting nighttime reading, and I think I'll keep it checked out of the library until it's due back. (Although, I can renew it four more times... ;) ) I'm curious to see if anyone else has written "contemporary psalms".
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although it gets extremely religious at the end, and it’s basically plea poems to god himself BUT ITS SO BEAUTIFUL.
Idk if it’s me but those can be interpreted in a lot of ways regardless their religious nature 👉🏻👈🏻

“Bind me to your will, bind me with these threads of sorrow, and gather me out of the afternoon where I have torn my soul on twenty monstrous altars, offering all things but myself.”
Jacob Wilson
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I read this in one sitting.

A book of relentlessly sublime poetry, it is the Belief of an Unbeliever, the Unbelief of a Believer. Beautitudes of a broken world.This book is beautiful, incomparable. I have nothing more to say: read it.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quick read. Triggers the imagination.
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Leonard Norman Cohen was 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 in

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“When I have not rage or sorrow, and you depart from me, then I am most afraid. When the belly is full, and the mind has its sayings, then I fear for my soul; I rush to you as a child at night breaks into its parents' room. Do not forget me in my satisfaction. When the heart grins at itself, the world is destroyed. And I am found alone with the husks and the shells. Then the dangerous moment comes: I am too great to ask for help. I have other hopes. I legislate from the fortress of my disappointments, with a set jaw. Overthrow this even terror with a sweet remembrance: when I was with you, when my soul delighted you, when I was what you wanted. My heart sings of your longing for me, and my thoughts climb down to marvel at your mercy. I do not fear as you gather up my days. Your name is the sweetness of time, and you carry me close into the night, speaking consolations, drawing down lights from the sky, saying, See how the night has no terror for one who remembers the Name.” 11 likes
“Blessed is the covenant of love, the covenant of mercy, useless light behind the terror, deathless song in the house of night.” 9 likes
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