Encomia swell as admirers note the passing of poet, singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose sorrows were so beautifully expressed that they translated into a kind of melancholy joy for many. Among those was the late great Kurt Cobain, the complex rock star who describes this Cohen phenomenon as he namechecks Cohen in his song “Pennyroyal Tea.” Cobain wrote “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld / so I can sigh eternally.” One is tempted to respond hallelujah. For the sighs Cobain cites, a look at Leonard Cohen: Selected Poems 1956-1968 is even more valuable, perhaps, than the songs.
Cohen died this week at age 82. Cobain committed suicide in 1994 at age 27. Cohen, who wrestled with existential doubts throughout his life, reportedly wished he’d been able to help Cobain — that perhaps he could have talked him away from suicide.