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Leonard Cohen dies aged 82 | 11-Nov-16

Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. He died on Monday 7 November and was buried at a private ceremony in Montreal. 

Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934 and came to prominence in the 1960s as a poet, novelist and singer-songwriter. Despite his literary beginnings, music became his focus in the late 60s when he moved to New York. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released in 1967.

Cohen published his first poems as a university student in March 1954 in the magazine CIV/n. He cited William Butler Yeats,Walt Whitman, Federico García Lorca, and Henry Miller as his literary influences at the time. His first published book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) contained poems written largely between the ages of 15 and 20; Cohen dedicated the book to his late father. 

After graduating, Cohen worked various odd jobs and focused on writing fiction and poetry, including the poems for his next book, The Spice-Box of Earth (1961). The Spice-Box of Earth was successful in helping to expand the audience for Cohen's poetry, helping him reach out to the Canadian poetry scene. The book also gained him critical recognition as an important new voice in Canadian poetry. One of Cohen's biographers, Ira Nadel, stated that "reaction to the finished book was enthusiastic and admiring.... The critic Robert Weaver found it powerful and declared that Cohen was 'probably the best young poet in English Canada right now.'"

Cohen wrote poetry and fiction throughout much of the 1960s, living as something of a recluse on the Greek island Hydra. During this time, Cohen published the poetry collection Flowers for Hitler (1964), and the novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966). In 1966 Cohen also published Parasites of Heaven, a book of poems. 

There are major gaps in Cohen's literary journey from times when he was focusing on recording songs. In 1978 he published his first book of poetry in many years, Death of a Lady's Man (not to be confused with the album). It was not until 1984 that Cohen published his next poetry collection, Book of Mercy, which won him the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Poetry. The book contains 50 prose-poems, influenced by the Hebrew Bible and Zen writings. Cohen himself referred to the pieces as "prayers". In 1993 Cohen published Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs, and in 2006, after 10 years of delays, additions, and rewritings, Book of Longing. The Book of Longing is dedicated to the poet Irving Layton. During the late 1990s and 2000s, many of Cohen's new poems and lyrics were first published on the fan website The Leonard Cohen Files, including the original version of the poem "A Thousand Kisses Deep" (which Cohen later adapted for a song).

Cohen on his writing process in 1998: "like a bear stumbling into a beehive or a honey cache: I'm stumbling right into it and getting stuck, and it's delicious and it's horrible and I'm in it and it's not very graceful and it's very awkward and it's very painful and yet there's something inevitable about it."


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