i recently read knut hamsun’s “growth of the soil.” i tip my hat to charles bukowski for the recommendation.
this book begins with painfully beautiful plain language. the words are pure and straightforward, like earth from the garden in your hands. it’s hard to imagine the simple life depicted in the first few pages filling the many pages of the book. if the first 2 pages were a short story you would know all you need to of the main character.
i was trying to think up appropriate praise, but h.g wells does it better than i could:
i have always loved the writings of leonard cohen. he brings the body together with the spirit in a way that is unexpected yet familiar at the same time.
his writing has a feeling of human and heartfelt directness. when i read his books i feel he knows just a little too much about me, and is describing just a little too much of himself at the same time.
his previous works have been full of sex and passionate energy. this book is full of vigour, but the subject matter of the opening poems is more often the conquest of his bowels than his bedroom.
poetry is a graphical language. the presence or absence of words on a page is as important as the words themselves. the book of longing has sketches throughout, sitting underneath, beside, ontop, or above poems. the book feels like a notebook, or unfinished work. ‘unwashed words from the street’ to paraphrase neruda. personally the drawing interferes with the poetry more than it compliments.
there is an incredible breadth of time represented in the book of longing. poems appear from as far back as the seventies and eighties, right up to modern writing.
the book feels more like a curated work rather than an authorial voice. theme and style are well represented, but there is no passionate narrative running through the whole work.
i always love loenard cohen’s writing, but this book feels as though it was hurried to press for a paycheque rather than crafted out of love and longing.
the drawings are an interesting idea, and while they distract and play with the text they don’t disrupt my reading. when a poem carries on to another page there is a small monty python-esque hand to indicate the continuing text. for most people the lack of a title on the next page would be enough to indicate a poem is continuing. i hate these hands.
i enjoyed the book and you might too