Leonard Cohen—acclaimed Canadian poet, novelist, singer, songwriter, musician, and wordsmith—passed away on November 7. Before his rise to prominence as a singer-songwriter in the late 1960s, Cohen was already an important voice in Canadian literature, having published several collections of poetry and two novels. In 1967, following the publication of Cohen’s controversial and critically acclaimed Beautiful Losers (1966), Canadian Literature produced an issue dedicated to Views of Leonard Cohen. The opening words from Desmond Pacey’s article in that issue, “The Phenomenon of Leonard Cohen,” provide a reflection on Cohen’s cultural influence at the time:
In naming Leonard Cohen a phenomenon, I am motivated by the quantity, quality and variety of his achievement. Still only thirty-three, Cohen has published four books of verse and two novels, and has made a national if not international reputation by his poetry reading, folk-singing, and skill with a guitar. The best of his poems have lyrical grace and verbal inevitability; his two novels are as perceptive in content and as sophisticated in technique as any that have appeared in English since the Second World War; and his voice has a magical incantatory quality which hypnotizes his audiences . . . into a state of bliss if not grace. (5)
Canadian Literature has been reviewing writing by and about Cohen since 1961, and has published several articles and one special issue of criticism on his work. The following list of reviews and articles from our archives speaks to the shifting creative and critical resonances of Cohen’s writing over time:
Reviews of Cohen’s Work
- “The Lean and the Luscious” by David Brominge originally appeared in Canadian Literature 10 (Autumn 1961): 87-88. Rev. of The Spice-Box of Earth by Leonard Cohen.
- “Love and Loss” by George Robertson originally appeared in Salute to E. J. Pratt. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 19 (Winter 1964): 69-70. Rev. of The Favorite Game by Leonard Cohen.
- “Of Beauty and Unmeaning” by Elliott B. Gose, Jr. originally appeared in Apprenticeships in Discovery. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 29 (Summer 1966): 61-63. Rev. of Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen.
- “Inside Leonard Cohen” by George Bowering originally appeared in Publishing in Canada. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 33 (Summer 1967): 71-72. Rev. of Parasites of Heaven by Leonard Cohen.
- “Cohen’s Women” by Tom Wayman originally appeared in Contemporary Canadian Poets. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 60 (Spring 1974): 89-93. Rev. of The Energy of Slaves by Leonard Cohen.
- “Prayers” by Rowland Smith originally appeared in Paradigms of Doubleness. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 104 (Spring 1985): 155-156. Rev. of Book of Mercy by Leonard Cohen.
- “Leonard Cohen: Travels with the ‘Tourist of Beauty’” by Ira Bruce Nadel originally appeared in Gabrielle Roy contemporaine/The Contemporary Gabrielle Roy. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 192 (Spring 2007): 150-151. Rev. of Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen.
Reviews of Books about Cohen
- “Critical Limitations” by Douglas Barbour originally appeared in Views of Novelists. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 49 (Summer 1971): 75-77.
- “Cohen and His Critics” originally appeared in Remembering Roderick Haig-Brown. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 71 (Winter 1976): 110-110.
- “Cohen” by Lorraine McMullen originally appeared in The Making of Modern Poetry. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 87 (Winter 1980): 118-119.
- “Diamonds and Shit” by Peter Cumming originally appeared in Urquhart and Munro. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 150 (Autumn 1996): 134-136.
- “The Two Cohens” by Norman Ravvin originally appeared in Writers Talking. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 183 (Winter 2004): 167-169.
- “Wayward Saint” by Mark Harris originally appeared in Of Borders and Bioregions. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 218 (Autumn 2013): 187.
Articles about Cohen
- “Leonard Cohen: A Personal Look” by A. W. Purdy originally appeared in Modern Canadian Poets. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 23 (Winter 1965): 7-16.
- “Beautiful Losers: All the Polarities” by Linda Hutcheon originally appeared in Lovers and Losers. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 59 (Winter 1974): 42-56.
- “The Poet as Novelist” by Linda Hutcheon originally appeared in The Structure of Fiction. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 86 (Autumn 1980): 6-14.
- “’Who is the Lord of the World?’: Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and the Total Vision” by Medrie Purdham originally in Canadian Literature 212 (Spring 2012): 86-102.