Analysis of For E.J.P.
Postby WhisperingBomb » Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:27 pm
The second half of my Canadian literature course has allowed me the opportunity to explore some of Leonard Cohen’s poetry (up until now I was only familiar with his music). I recently wrote a short essay on the theme of love in the moment in "closing time" and "You Have The Lovers" (I only got a B+ on it, largely due to formatting errors, proofreading) and now we are being asked to analyze "For E.J.P" if anyone has any interpretations on this poem I'd be glad to hear them, I'm not looking for a complete analysis (that's my job) only clues and directions to the theme and meaning of the poem.
If anyone is interested I can post my essay on the "love in the moment" theme as well to contribute back to the "cause".
I once believed a single line
in a Chinese poem could change
forever how blossoms fell
and that the moon itself climbed on
the grief of concise weeping men
to journey over cups of wine
I thought invasions were begun for crows
to pick at a skeleton
dynasties sown and spent
to serve the language of a fine lament
I thought governors ended their lives
as sweetly drunken monks
telling time by rain and candles
instructed by an insect's pilgrimage
across the page - all this
so one might send an exile's perfect letter
to an ancient hometown friend
I chose a lonely country
broke from love
scorned the eternity of war
I polished my tongue against the pumice moon
floated my soul in cherry wine
a perfumed barge for Lords of Memory
to languish on to drink to whisper out
their store of strength
as if beyond the mist along the shore
their girls their power still obeyed
like clocks wound for a thousand years
I waited until my tongue was sore
Brown petals wind like fire around my poems
I aimed them at the stars but
like rainbows they were bent
before they sawed the world in half
Who can trace the canyoned paths
cattle have carved out of time
wandering from meadowlands to feasts
Layer after layer of autumn leaves
are swept away
Something forgets us perfectly
Leonard Cohen celebrates the personal, historical, and sexual. He sees an interconnectedness in religion, sexual union, and the freeing of the spirit. He writes not only of all those who experience angst as they lose love, grow old, and watch all around them decay, but also of those who seek solace in religion and can emerge for a moment or two from their deep despair and test the waters of joy. His lyrics and poetry are a record of his life; they demonstrate self-mockery, humor, and his sense that nothing has value, and can be deliberately offensive or self-annihilating.
His poems and lyrics both embody a kind of zen poetry of being and contain tension and energy. His poems on aging reflect a personal and deep sense of loneliness and misery. His early works deal with opposites: guilt and sexual freedom, violence and beauty, and love and loss. They follow a conventional meter and form but contain intense messages that create a startling contrast. His later works delve into social and historical issues.
The anachronistic title of Cohen’s third book of poetry, Flowers for Hitler, perhaps gives the reader a sense of Cohen as a poet: Who would pay tribute to a monster like Hitler with a gift of flowers? Is Cohen an unreconstructed Nazi or a neo-Nazi? Certainly not. Why then does the poet even suggest that a mass murderer is worthy of colorful blooms? Similarly alarming visual images appear in the poem “Lovers” (from Let Us Compare Mythologies), which describes death in a concentration camp: “And at the hot ovens they/ Cunningly managed a brief/ Kiss before the soldier came/ To knock out her golden teeth.” Cohen excels at capturing the moment, the horror of the times. He goes on to write: “And in the furnace itself/ As the flames flamed higher,/ he tried to kiss her burning breasts/ As she burned in the fire.” Few images could be more powerful than this. His poetry and lyrics have always dealt with love and loss, with longing for an elusive something.
In Stranger Music, Cohen included poetry from all his previously published books and added the lyrics from selected songs from many of his albums. Three particularly noteworthy songs admired partly for their lyrics are “Suzanne” (from Songs of Leonard Cohen), “Anthem” (from The Future, 1992), and “Hallelujah” (from Various Positions, 1985).
“Suzanne” and “Anthem”
Parasites of Heaven included the poem “Suzanne Takes You Down,” which became the song “Suzanne,” one of the best known of Cohen’s compositions. Vocalist Judy Collins recorded this song in 1966, becoming the first of many to cover it, and provided a boost to Cohen’s musical career. The Suzanne portrayed in the poem was a friend’s wife, and thus Cohen could not become involved with her. Also, neither he nor the woman wanted to ruin the deep feelings and appreciation they had for each other....
(The entire section is 1225 words.)