Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s Q show interviews Leonard Cohen, poet, singer-songwriter, at his home in Montreal. It was aired on April 16, 2009. Ghomeshi is a good interviewer, who is not only intelligent, but can also elicit honest reflective answers from the people sitting in front of him. This is no small talent.
Below are some excerpts from their discussion:
Q: You said to the Observer newspaper that at this stage of your life you refer to as the third act. And you quoted Tennessee Williams saying “Life is a fairly well written play except for the third act.” You were 67 when you said that, you’re 74 now. Does that ring more or less true for you still?
A: Well it's well written, the beginning of the third act is... seems to be very, very well written. But the end of the third act (is) of course when the hero dies... each person considering himself the central figure of his own drama. My friend, my friend Irving Layton said, he said about death, he says: “It’s not death that he’s worried about, it’s the preliminaries.”
Q: Are you worried about the preliminaries?
A: Sure, every person ought to be.
Q: But this was a brand new career for you that you were starting in your 30s. How fearful were you of starting a second career at that point?
A: Well I’ve been generally fearful about everything, so this just fits in with the general sense of anxiety that I always experienced in my early life... When you say I had a career as a writer or a poet, that hardly begins to describe the modesty of the enterprise in Canada at that time. You know, we often printed our books we often mimeographed our books. An edition of 200 was considered a bestseller in poems.Nothing has changed; it still remains so, For those who do not know, Irving Layton [1912–2006] is one of Canada’s famous and greatest poets. (Layton born in 1912 as Israel Pincu Lazarovitch, to Jewish parents in the Romanian town of Tirgul Neamtwas; they arrived in Montreal in 1913.) Layton was a mentor to many poets, including Cohen. Other notable influences were Canadian poet, A.M. Klein [1909–1972] and Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca [1898–1936].