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Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs Paperback – November 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cohen is probably best known as the writer of the lyrics for the song "Suzanne," made famous by Judy Collins, but has written a great many other songs, too, as well as poetry and prose poetry not set to music. In reading through this generous selection, one often hears the ghost of musical accompaniment, and sometimes its actual presence is missed. The writing alone, forthright in its rhythms, plain of speech, often rhymed, and almost immediately accessible, seems well suited to the ears of a live audience. So fans of the songs will be in luck, here; but readers who prefer slow subtleties, or a kind of poetry that gradually expands in meaning on rereading, or ambitious craft, won't find it in a piece like "For Anne," which begins "With Annie gone, / Whose eyes to compare / With the morning sun?" Cohen's writing is oral in flavor, and asks us to "read" it mainly by hearing it. This works to the disadvantage of a book, where words stay put and aren't sung.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

To appreciate these poems, we must suspend any notions of poetry as an intellectual art form and approach this work as one would a rack of greeting cards. Rhyme abounds, frankly showing Cohen at his best because it holds his didactic nature in check. Although there are few surprises, such as the wonderful early poem "Beneath My Hands," the songs from Cohen's first album, written over 30 years ago, are still his finest displays of outrageous yet stunning imagery. The presence of woman as lover, prostitute, or slave, celebrated in these early songs, continues into his latest work, making over 400 pages seem remarkably flimsy. That these women never seem to exist as individuals will possibly offend readers with a feminist bent. Yet despite almost pornographic descriptions, this Jewish poet still will not write outG-d's name. The Buddhist element in his 1984 poetry collection, Book of Mercy , is now scarcely evident. Despite its flaws, this book is recommended for popular collections.
- Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679755411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Carey on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of my top gift items: Turn people on to this book. It is a terrific, full anthology that includes much out-of-print material. The poetry is stylistically wide in scope (from how-did-he-do that perfect to sparse, intense, free-verse); it has unique, emotionally-driven language choices, rhythm and content. Its tenor is lugubrious, and its subject matter tends toward sex and religion.

This, as opposed to his individual books of poetry: The individual books are typically short and some are wonderful -- each is very different, thus liked by different tastes. If you don't own any Cohen books, buy this first -- it's got great poems (plus clips of prose, as from "Beautiful Losers"). The chapters are laid out by book and album title (lyrics are here, too); therefore, if/when you want another book after, you will know which one. One thing I don't like about it is the change in poem titles from their originals.

This books ends when Cohen is in his 50's, at least in the previously unpublished poems at the end -- so, before the monastery part of his life, though religion is well part of him (he is Orthodox Jewish and views his Buddhism as compatible with his Judaism). I'm not much a fan of his post-monastery work, and if I have one regret it's that I discovered Leonard Cohen within the past ten years, and never got to see him live.

Know, too, that Cohen was a published poet--well-known in Canada--before he recorded music. He began to play guitar while reading poetry -- it went over well!
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Carol C. VINE VOICE on July 8, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even if you aren't familiar with Cohen as a musician, you've probably heard his music -- "Suzanne" (who "takes you down by her place near the river"), "Bird on a Wire," "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Joan of Ark." Rufus Wainright sang a haunting version of "Hallelujah" on the soundtrack of Schreck. John Cale did an earlier cover of "Hallelujah." I listened to Hallelujah over & over again, hitting the move back button on my CD player time after time. Later, I discovered that Hallelujah was penned by Leonard Cohen. Interesting -- I'd never heard of Leonard Cohen. Out of curiosity, I bought a couple of his CDs. I can't stop listening to them.
I bought this book because I wanted to see the lyrics written out (obviously, this is not an endorsement for the rather lame liner notes on the CDS I bought, which do not include lyrics). This treasure trove contains so much more here than the lyrics to the familiar songs. This isn't a feel-good collection; rather, it's a feel-alive collection, piercing and painful and brutal in its honesty. Cohen's poetry is perfect for when you want to crawl into yourself & wallow in introspection. This book contains 401 pages of poetry -- deeply spiritual, often sexual, sometimes funny, usually haunting. Most of the poems dig at your inner core, causing you to think. I am so amazed at the breadth of this man's talent, at his insight and intelligence and honesty. The poems are real rather than pretty, troubled rather than calm.
If you like Bob Dylan/Joan Baez type of music, you'll like Cohen's poetry. If you've read (and enjoyed) the poetry but haven't yet heard the music, do yourself a big favor and check out one of his CDs.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on August 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Leonard Cohen is... I cannot find a single word to describe him. He is enigmatic. He is eclectic. He is iconoclastic. He is all of these things, and many, many more. Read this book and you will understand. This book includes a wide variety of his poems throughout the years, including selections from all 8 of his original volumes of poetry (The Energy of Slaves and Death of A Lady's Man are particularly well represented), as well as poems from his first anthology, selections from his novel Beautiful Losers, and 11 previously unpublished poems. Also included are lyrics to songs from all of his wonderful albums, many of them nicely represented, including The Future, his most recent album, which has all of it's Cohen-penned lyrics included here. These are particularly convenient as Cohen's albums, sadly, have been virtually ignored by record companies and during their re-packaging onto CD most of them do not include lyrics. This is a monumental collection, over 400 pages and including several hundred poems, some of which are not available elsewhere, and almost all of which are very hard to find at any rate. This is an absolute must for a Leonard Cohen fan. He is perhaps my favorite poet, his words tug at your heartstrings like so many other poets are claimed to be able to do, but which few can. His writing has always been honest, he's not fooling anybody, and these poems and lyrics touch you deep in your soul. Cohen strikes a chord. This is masterly, masterly writing. If you are a fan of Leonard Cohen's music, then you owe it to yourself to further your experience by buying this book. I cannot give it a higher reccommendation.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Smith on May 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a man once said, "James Joyce is not dead. He's living in Montreal under the name of Leonard Cohen."
Stranger Music is an amazing book. I can't stress this enough, it's poetry in action and Cohen's words sing themselves off of the page and into your mind. This is the type of stuff that stays with you. This is the type of stuff that people can live their whole lives and only hope to write.
Stranger Music is an excellent book, even for people whom might otherwise be down on poetry.
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