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The Spice-Box of Earth

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  705 ratings  ·  55 reviews
A collection of 59 poems originally published in 1961. Paperback, pp93, the back cover featuring a photograph of Leonard Cohen by Sophie Baker.
Paperback, 96 pages
Published December 27th 1987 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1961)
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Mutasim Billah
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada, poetry
Leonard Cohen's second collection of poems, The Spice Box of Earth was published in 1961, when Cohen was 27 years old. One of his earlier works, the collection contains 59 poems and a photograph of Cohen taken by Sophie Baker.

Raegan Butcher
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poets and those who read them
This is the second book of Cohen's poetry and it is filled with his unique brand of religion and sexuality, the sacred and the profane. One of the fascinating aspects of Leonard Cohen's poetry has been its elasticity and it's interesting to see how it has evolved over the years; you only have to look at the poems in THE SPICE BOX OF EARTH(1961) compared to the poems in THE ENERGY OF SLAVES(1972) to see the difference.It seems to me that Leonard Cohen has always been on a spiritual path--always c ...more
Michèle Dextras
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This was part of the curriculum for my grade 9 English class in 1962! It was my introduction to Leonard Cohen and I am forever grateful to that grade 9 English teacher.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem

and you would hand it back to me.
- Gift, pg. 11

* * *

I wonder how many people in this city
live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when I look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
looking back at me,
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.
- I Wonder How Many People in This City, p
Marijana Markalaus
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Beautifully and deeply written verses. It shows Cohen's truly poetical facility and also the capability of coherence. In fact it shows Cohen's increasing being from religious tradition. Some poems evoked the biblical prayer like Twelve O’clock Chant, but many poems are really sodden with biblical motives. It is interesting that Cohen uses them, except primarily for honoring the ancestors, to show some kind of detachment, sometimes irony? The core of the collection is in my opinion the Out of the ...more
I thought I'd be more nostalgic about this one. I read this book years ago. Cohen is still a master but the subject matter is very naive in a way I found harder to enjoy outright. His skill is on display in full force in each line but his observations fall flat. I wish he'd say something more than what is here.

I'm definitely going to read some of his older work next. Cohen is still a very dear poet to me and I recommend reading him, but only read this if you want the full image of his career. Hi
Jessie Kennedy
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Some bits of really beautiful writing but overall p dark and dense poetry that's just not my thing.
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I recently went to a tribute concert for Leonard Cohen and during it they also read some of his poems and I found them quite interesting so I asked one of the poets what collection they were from. It was The Spice Box of Earth and they pretty much read the best poems included in the collection. There were still some hidden gems in there though. Some were harder to follow than others, but I found that reading them out loud seemed to unlock their meaning and give them new depth. I suppose that’s o ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This collection felt a bit patchier and often more personal than his others that I've read. I liked him best here when he was at his simplest, like in the 'Summer Haiku' or 'For Anne', although the 'Lines From My Grandfather's Journal' were very interesting. To be honest, I felt like I didn't really get a number of these poems - I'd like to try reading them again in more depth later.
mic boshans
Sep 09, 2009 is currently reading it
Digging it so far. Leonard Cohen really speaks to me. I love his humanity and nakedness.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Re-read this for the first time since my 20s. There's no one else like him.
Apr 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Summer Haiku


and a deeper silence

when the crickets

May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2017
This book is from early on in Leonard Cohen's poetry. You can see signs of himself in the writing, most of it is quite standard, a bit of rhyme here and there, lots of descriptive stuff but no real life to it. A huge amount of the book features poems about his religion and with me not understanding that religion I couldn't really get what was being said. There is also no stand out poem, whilst reading his work nothing much jumped out at me.

At the end of the book he has included some lines from h
Jennifer O'Kelly
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
There are some beautiful poems in this volume. An example:


You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem
and you would hand it back to me

I also really like 'Beneath my Hands', which I first heard a few months ago when my partner was reading me poetry to distract me from a nasty dental infection. There are several other stand out pieces. The overall tone, tho, is a little terse
Mark Valentine
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part of the pleasure of reading these poems is in finding his footprints in verse, his lyrics scaled to a book of poems, his scansion laced with cinnamon, all-spice, and ginger. He takes great flights with images--quick as a swallow's dash--and I found great pleasure in the incongruity of his familiar patterns.

Plus, there were some damn fine lines. Here's one, "only strangers travel." And this triplet:
"It is good to live between
a ruined house of bondage
and a holy promised land," from "Credo."
Marshall A Lewis
I've wondered if I would like Cohen's poetry since I first found out about it. An influential musician and influenced by the Beat Generation and their love of poetry and jazz, I really hoped to enjoy my fellow Canadian's poetry. And with a title like 'the spice-box of earth' I was really hoping it would be reflected within by beautiful word choice and images. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy much of the poetry; perhaps my own taste does not coincide with Leonard's, but I at least had to try. I did ...more
Rebecca Rebecca
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection, with poetic forms varying from ballad stanza to free verse to prose-poems. The poems that engage with biblical figures and Jewish traditions are the strongest and quite fascinating for Cohen's thought and later work. The poem "Isaiah" (included also in _Stranger Music) is a gem.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Believe nothing of me
except that I felt your beauty
more closely than my own.
I did not see any cities burn,
I heard no promises of endless night,
I felt your beauty
more closely than my own.
Promise me that I will return.

Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
in his second collection of poems, cohen loses completely the naiveness that tainted his first release. the awkward college student who does not truly know how to deal with women is gone, the sometimes over-explicit crudeness of gore in his poetry is toned down, more defined.
Matteo Ippolito
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poesi
A powerfull and fellingfull book about losing love, finding a voice by the candelligt. About travel, inside and out. Read it. Please, for your own sake.
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
I would say this was a 4.5 star read for me. There were a handful of poems (if that), that I didn’t really like.
Brandon Montgomery
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2018
Cohen's second book of poetry offers up a lot of fine imagery with little behind it. Overall, it's good, but not as good as his later volumes.
Anthony Leong
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Pretty opaque, but lyrical even when it is.
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I am a huge fan of Cohen, but this collection wasn't particularly great. Some of the poems were beautiful, but others didn't stay in my mind beyond a few minutes.
Oct 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is a selection of poetry and prose by Leonard Cohen. There was a few that I actually liked. Mostly I didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a pleasure to meet this book! I discovered a young rambunctious, yet tentative man in these pages. Leonard Cohen is known for his lyrics/poems that are - under all circumstances perfect in every comma, nuance and breath. This book reveals the source of that impeccability.
The drawings by Frank Newfeld exquisite.
From the type to the size, format, paper quality and cover - this book is perfect.
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Beneathe My Hands" is a favorite poem from this book.
Cohen speaks candidly to the soul with a gentle knowing that invites the doe in ones heart to draw near and partake of the apple he exposes in his elegant way. He succinctly conveys such depth. Upon digesting it I find myself astounded every time. Remarkable.
He will always be one suave brother with such a gift of eloquence. Swoon it up! Shalom Leonard rest in peace

Beneath My Hands ("In my hands, your small breasts ...") from "The Spice-Box
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second read through: Possibly Cohen's most conservative (which is to say not very) book of poetry. I found the last batch of poems to be particularly harsh. The volume portrays a cynical speaker's voice that will only worsen in later volumes.

Original Review:
Cohen's second book of poetry is exciting and exceptionally Jewish. His flirtation with images of light and darkness first takes form in these early poems, which I believe, are the beginning of a more articulate form of the Cohen poetic mark;
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's fun to read Cohen's poetry, especially the stuff he wrote almost seven years before his first album came out. There's always been some poetry in his song lyrics, and it's evident reading Spice Box that, unlike other songwriters who have put poetry collections together in the past, he actually knows what he's doing when it comes to writing poems.

The best poems are the ones that draw from Cohen's Jewish faith and his family, especially his grandfather, who was a Rabbi. While Cohen the song w
Nick McRae
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Spice-Box of Earth comes five years after Cohen's first release, published when he was twenty-seven.

To me it looks like he improved quite a bit in that time, mainly recognizing what every great writer eventually realizes - that it's fewer syllables, not more which make writing great. First you get the slab of concrete down, then you slowly chip away at it until you get what's essential - as few words as possible.

This seems to be what Cohen did here: achieve a simplicity and a sensuality that
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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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“A Kite is a Victim

A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won't give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you've written
so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so you make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the whole cold night before,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.


You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem
and you would hand it back to me

There are some men

There are some men
who should have mountains
to bear their names through time
Grave markers are not high enough
or green
and sons go far away to lose the fist
their father’s hand will always seem

I had a friend he lived and died
in mighty silence and with dignity
left no book son or lover to mourn.
Nor is this a mourning song
but only a naming of this mountain
on which I walk
fragrant, dark and softly white
under the pale of mist
I name this mountain after him.

-Believe nothing of me
Except that I felt your beauty
more closely than my own.
I did not see any cities burn,
I heard no promises of endless night,
I felt your beauty
more closely than my own.
Promise me that I will return.-

-When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.-


I almost went to bed
without remembering
the four white violets
I put in the button-hole
of your green sweater

and how i kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I'd
never been your lover

-Reach into the vineyard of arteries for my heart.
Eat the fruit of ignorance and share with me the mist and
fragrance of dying.-”
“I almost went to bed
without remembering
the four white violets
I put in the button-hole
of your green sweater

and how i kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I’d
never been your lover”
More quotes…