A Nobel for Leonard

News about Leonard Cohen and his work, press, radio & TV programs etc.
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jarkko
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Post by jarkko » Thu Mar 31, 2005 6:48 pm

Here follows an article from yesterday's National Post.
Thanks to Gurinder Brar & Birar Khosla for the link!

http://www.canada.com/national/national ... b29c6054a6

The plan to win Leonard Cohen a Nobel
Radio host launches campaign on poet and singer's behalf

J. Kelly Nestruck
National Post


Wednesday, March 30, 2005



CREDIT: Dave Sidaway, CanWest News Service
A NOBEL PRIZE FOR COHEN?: There is a movement afoot to have Leonard Cohen nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature. Cohen "deserves to be recognized for the influence he's had on poets and novelists and musicians and songwriters and playwrights," one of the campaign's proponents gushes.


Paul Kennedy has a message for the Nobel Committee in Stockholm: Leonard Cohen's your man.

This Saturday, radio documentarian Kennedy will launch a campaign to nominate the revered Canadian songwriter and poet for the Nobel Prize in Literature. During a panel discussion at Blue Metropolis, Montreal's international literary festival, the host of CBC Radio's Ideas will make the case that Cohen is worthy of the $1.7-million prize, backed up by writer George Elliott Clarke, playwright and poet Michel Garneau, college professor Edward Palumbo and jazz singer Karen Young.

"I hope this is a standing-room only, people-hanging-from-the-rafters event," says Kennedy, who also plans to dedicate his April 18 radio broadcast to the Cohen campaign. "There are a lot of people in Montreal who are very passionate about Leonard Cohen ... He's different from a celebrity; he's almost God."

Though he is not a member of the Swedish Academy or any of the other bodies that can put forward names for the Nobel, Kennedy hopes can build some Nobel momentum for the Montreal-born songwriter, poet and novelist. "He deserves to be recognized for the influence he's had on poets and novelists and musicians and songwriters and playwrights and, God knows, anyone who works in language," argues Kennedy, who first got hooked on Cohen's sensibility when his Grade 9 English teacher played Suzanne in class.

Kennedy detects traces of Cohen in the work of many critically acclaimed writers, including past Nobel laureates like Colombia's Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who beat out Cohen's mentor Irving Layton to win the prize in 1982, and Derek Walcott, the West Indian poet who won in 1992. Jose Saramago, Portugal's 1998 laureate, is open in his admiration of the 70-year-old CanLit star; he even gave Cohen a cameo in The History of the Siege of Lisbon, where he appears on the hero Raimundo Silva's television screen, singing "of things only someone who has lived can sing of."

But Cohen isn't just a writer's writer. His music has made him popular around the globe -- even among those who have never picked up one of his books. "I've heard Leonard coming from speakers in Asia, in Europe and through the Americas," notes Kennedy, who has travelled extensively making radio documentaries. "I've had kids in Palestine who don't speak English repeat lines to me in perfect English... Somebody should be writing PhD theses like, 'Leonard Cohen in Guatemala literature.' "

Edward Palumbo, who teaches at John Abbott College in Montreal, also testifies to Cohen's international appeal. At a party in San Francisco in the early '70s, Palumbo recalls encountering a Czechoslovakian dissident who immediately asked him about Cohen when she learned he was Canadian. "She had what looked like samizdat, hand-written mimeographed pages of his poems that she carried around with her in her sack," he remembers. "He was apparently well-known among the anti-government forces in Czechoslovakia in the late '60s and early '70s."

Despite Canada's world reputation as a breeding ground for great writers, the Nobel Prize for Literature has never been awarded to a Canadian -- with the nominal exception Saul Bellow, who was born in Lachine, Que., but was raised and spent most of his life in the United States. Why not make Leonard Cohen the first, his supporters will ask on Saturday. "Among the Canadian potential contenders, I think a really strong case can be made for Leonard," says Palumbo, who is a particular fan of Beautiful Losers, Cohen's experimental second novel. With its distinct mix of English, French and First Nations elements, Palumbo believes that Beautiful Losers could well be the Great Canadian Novel.

Unfortunately for his boosters, Leonard Cohen is viewed as a bit of a long shot for the world's biggest literary prize because he is involved in popular music. (Bob Dylan, who was the subject of an unsuccessful Nobel lobby a few years ago, had the same problem.)

"But the fact that [his poems] are set to music should strengthen rather than diminish their power," argues Palumbo, noting that no one looks down on 17th-century poet John Donne because he wrote songs.

But alongside the question of whether Cohen could win the Nobel Prize in Literature is the question of whether he would want it -- or even accept it. The Montreal-born scribe did after all turn down the Governor-General's Award in 1968, after, he claimed, his poems told him not to.

"Leonard doesn't give a shit about the Nobel Prize," says Michel Garneau, who was Cohen's hand-picked Quebec translator for his collected-works tome Stranger Music. "Prizes are very silly and the silliest of them all, maybe, is the Nobel Prize... If you look at the history of the Nobel Prize, it's a very sad history because some terrible people have gotten it."

Despite this, Cohen seems to be mellowing in his old age: He showed up at Rideau Hall in 2003 to be made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Garneau, a well-known Quebecois poet and playwright, only decided to take part in Kennedy's panel so that at least someone there would read one of Cohen's poems aloud. "In things like that, usually they will talk about a poet for two hours and not have one single poem heard," says Garneau, who plans to recite How to Speak Poetry in English and French. "His poems were a lot of fun to translate. Some of them came very easily, some of them extremely difficult. But I've not found one bad poem.... He has his own voice, which is really something."

Despite his dislike of literary prizes, Garneau wouldn't mind if Cohen won the Nobel Prize -- though he cautions that it could be a double-edged sword.

"A lot of people got it when they were a little too old and it sort of killed them," warns Garneau, who says that Cohen is currently "working like crazy" on new writing. "They had trouble writing after. They wrote terrible things."

"I just wish that if Leonard gets it, it doesn't bother him."

HOW NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS ARE SELECTED

If Leonard Cohen's fans really want him to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, here's how they'll need to go about it.

NOMINATION

The process of selecting a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature starts in September, about a year before the prize announcement. At this time, the Swedish Academy, sends out letters to individuals and organizations qualified to nominate candidates. The right to submit proposals, based on the principle of competence and universality, is enjoyed by: members of the Swedish Academy and other national academies of similar construction and purpose; university professors of literature and linguistics; previous Literature Laureates; and presidents of national author societies. The nominations reach the Academy between September and February. Around 200 names have been submitted yearly for consideration.

SELECTION

During the spring, the proposals are examined by the Nobel Committee and in April it presents for the Academy's approval a preliminary list of candidates, containing some 20 names. Before the Academy's summer recess the list has usually been further reduced to about five names. In October, the Academy makes its choice. For the election to be valid, a candidate must gain more than half of the votes cast.

ANNOUNCEMENT

After the vote, the prize winner is contacted and a press conference is held. Information about the nominations, investigations and opinions concerning the award is kept secret for 50 years.

- From nobelprize.org/literature/nomination/index.html.

© National Post 2005
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Post by lizzytysh » Thu Mar 31, 2005 6:58 pm

Yes, Demetris, the list is, indeed, instructive.
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Post by Tchocolatl » Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:37 pm

Good Lu... (they say it is more lucky not to say it) Mr. Cohen (as I have the strange feeling it is a lottery ticket) :?
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Post by Kush » Fri Apr 01, 2005 2:12 am

Thanks for the link and I'm looking forward to hearing your reasons. I'm not saying that I disagree (I don't), but when you straighten out your thoughts...
Linda...I will try to elaborate. I'm not sure I will be able to do so and to be honest I'm not even sure of the reasons myself. A disclaimer though...I am no literary expert so it is to be taken with a large dose of salt :). I will mostly refer to Dylan coz' I am more familiar and therefore more comfortable discussing his work.

Firstly my problem with nominating folks like Dylan is something to do with popular culture and the "fan" baggage that comes along with it. The 20th century celebrity/popstar phenomenon I think makes it impossible to make an objective assessment of someone's work from a literary perspective. Most writers nominations are not known to the public but in a high-profile case as Dylan it gets leaked and by that fact alone he should be disqualified. Also, most authors usually operate under the radar until they win a major prize....that is hardly the case where a popstar is involved.

Then there is a question of precedence. Dylan is a major musical figure of the 20th century and arguably the most influential. Almost every 60s and post 60s singer/songwriter-poet has been influenced by him. That does not necessarily make him the most deserving writer. Frankly, I can think of probably a dozen songwriters who write as well as he does IMHO in their own way. So if someone like Dylan gets it, where do you stop? Everyone here will argue that Cohen also should get it, even perhaps should precede him. And why not Paul Simon (author of Dangling Conversation and Sound of Silence -surely that's poetry/literature)?
Then should Jacques Brel have gotten it while he was alive? And if JB should have gotten it then should Charles Aznavour get it while he is still alive? Should Bruce Springsteen get it - a Harvard professor teaches a whole course in cultural history/literature based on Springsteen song/poetry. And what about Shane McGowan - the "finest songwriter from Ireland in the last 30 years"? (I've never heard of him but I trust Mr. McGeever's judgment :)). The list goes on.

Also, I believe it is impossible to make an objective assessment of the written word when one has heard it as a song. Does the major part of Dylan's output really work (some of it most certainly does) when isolated from the music and assessed simply as poetry? We'll never know coz' we have all heard it primarily as songs and how much ever we try the subconscious will add music/melody to the written word.

Plus with 21st internet technology the process (or the lead up to it) becomes very transparent and democratic. Democracy is a great idea for governance but not for picking Nobel Laureates in my opinion. The only people participating in the process should be those supremely qualified to do so. Heck, I don't believe I have the necessary experience or seniority to judge the Nobel-worthiness of someone in my own field of expertise in which I have an advanced degree, let alone something that is my hobby (i.e., music, poetry, literature).
Therefore to solicit opinions on an internet fan site for a Nobel nomination is highly democratic and somewhat inappropriate IMHO.
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Post by jarkko » Fri Apr 01, 2005 9:44 am

From Chengyi Chan in Montreal:

"I am writing to tell you that the CBC's English radio station will have a compaign this Saturday for Leonard Cohen for the nomination of Nobel prize of literature, according to today's (March 31, 2005) "24 heures," a free daily newspaper http://www.24heures.ca . They didn't include this article on their website.) The article is in French. Here is my translation of the article into English:

Un prix Nobel pour Leonard Cohen?
A Nobel prize for Leonard Cohen?

A compaign aiming to promote the nomination of author-singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen for the Nobel prize of literature is taking place right now.

This campagne will be officially launched this Saturday on the CBC's English radio station by the host fo the show Paul Kennedy. He has got support from several celebrities, among whom are poet/playwright Michel Garneau and writer George Elliott Clarke. These people try to convince the committe of the Nobel Prize, whose registered office is in Stockholm in Sweden to grant the Nobel Prize for Literature to M. Cohen, as well as the prize money of 1.7 million dollars which accompany the prize.

During a period of his career, Leonard Cohen hosted a radio program "Ideas" on CBC.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As you can see, the article did not specify when the radio program starts on Saturday. If I have further news, I'll let you know."
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Post by jurica » Fri Apr 01, 2005 12:49 pm

Kush wrote:Also, I believe it is impossible to make an objective assessment of the written word when one has heard it as a song. Does the major part of Dylan's output really work (some of it most certainly does) when isolated from the music and assessed simply as poetry? We'll never know coz' we have all heard it primarily as songs and how much ever we try the subconscious will add music/melody to the written word.

***

Therefore to solicit opinions on an internet fan site for a Nobel nomination is highly democratic and somewhat inappropriate IMHO.
well, for the first part - i can tell you that it certanly does work even as written poetry, since, unable to get some of his works (i now have more or less everything important) i used to read his lyrics from the internet to get the general idea what i should get first.

ofcourse, a good part of his songs are completely worthless lyricaly (we all know that, dont we?), but i belive in judging people only on account of their best work, and totally ignoring their poorer efforts.

for the second part - Nobel prize was very much influenced by politics in recent years. we used to discuss to a great length why Ivo Andric was awarded Nobel and not Miroslav Krleza (both from Yugoslavia, contemporaries, and both great writers). some belive that he was politicaly fitter.

we could discuss for example why Nadine Gordimer (South Africa, woman) or Toni Morrison (black woman) won Nobel prizes recently, and not Thomas Pynchon, Norman Mailer or Philip Roth. i'm not sure that they were judged on account of their work. they all write in more or less same tradition, and i think that most people will agree that Pynchon is more developed artist than Gordimer.

when China was opening to the west, a Chinese writer got it (don't remember the name).

Nobel is often awarded for "good intentions" rather than artistic achievements.

i'm not saying that it's good or bad. just that i think that's the way it works.

in that direction - i don't think that Cohen or Dylan should be awarded. if award for Gordimer and Morrison helped to draw attention to sex/race problems in contemporary society - for Dylan and Cohen it's hardly necessary. they are both well heard of anyway.

it's just MHO, as Kush woud put it.
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Post by September_Cohen » Sat Apr 02, 2005 1:47 am

Hahahaha....look at those great bedroom thinkers here. Song lyrics IS litterature, like poetry is litterature, like the back of a Soap box is litterature.....who are you to judge that Dylan's or Cohen's lyrics are not poetry but "words to dance to"?!!!!
Poetry can create dance even without music....and a Hallmark card writer can owe the Nobel prize too.
One for the money
Two for the show
Three to get ready
Go man go
I said tell me Mr. Siegal
How do I get out of here
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Post by Kush » Sat Apr 02, 2005 2:33 am

Well, thanks for the feedback Jurica and SC.

Jurica .....your comments are noted and I may post or pm you later when I think up of something in response. I think though that Dylan himself is mightily amused by this whole nomination thing and has no delusions of grandeur re' The Tower of Nobel. Somehow I suspect he really means it when he says he is the "song-and-dance man" and "I don't do high-falutin' stuff".
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Post by linda_lakeside » Sat Apr 02, 2005 7:01 am

Hi Kush,

Well, it certainly looks like you got your thoughts together! :wink: . There is so much more printing on the page since the last time we talked :D . Looks like I should read it first.

Linda.
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Post by jurica » Sat Apr 02, 2005 3:34 pm

Kush wrote: Somehow I suspect he really means it when he says he is the "song-and-dance man" and "I don't do high-falutin' stuff".
i think you are quite right.

i don't feel like going trough all of his interviews again to find the exact quote, but Cohen also said somewhere that he now knows that "he's not a prophet of new sensuality, great writer or anything else but mere singer" or as he said somewhere else "a minor poet".

i think they both see themselves like old troubadours back in Middle Ages - singing to the face of the king things that would cost them their heads if he didn't comprehend them as mere jesters. i don't mean politics here. the king, the way i see it, are their audiences (us), and the ugly truth is that we are not able to feel all the emotions they sing about. that we're nowhere near the image of ourselves that we imagine.

but what i consider 'great art' is not grave and it's not larger than life.
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Post by Kush » Sun Apr 03, 2005 2:36 am

Yeah...Cohen and Dylan come from a long line of troubadors. I get the sense that Dylan really wants to be remembered as someone of that tradition, nothing more and nothing less.
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Post by September_Cohen » Sun Apr 03, 2005 5:04 am

Dylan, Cohen, Jim Morrison... they all wanted to be remembered for the Words....and are words is litterature....and where is litterature is the Nobel prize for litterature.....stop categorizing the world in your dirty palms.
One for the money
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Three to get ready
Go man go
I said tell me Mr. Siegal
How do I get out of here
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Post by jarkko » Sun Apr 03, 2005 6:29 pm

Eva Poola's report:

"I thoroughly enjoyed the effort put together by Ted Kennedy of CBC Radio One, to campaign for Leonard's nomination for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Good turnout.
I spoke to him at the end & he said the transcript should be available soon. He is on CBC weekdays at 9 p.m.
The panelists were Karen Young, a Montreal Jazz Singer; George Elliott Clarke, poet, playwright & author & also a recipient of the Governor General Award; Michel Garneau, poet & author & recipient of 2 Governor General Awards (he refused it the first time); and Edward Palumbo,writer & teaches at John Abbott CEGEP.
The arguments they put forward convinced me and confirmed to me the true greatness of our Leonard Cohen.

Karen Young read some of his poetry, beautiful interpretation!

Palumbo read from Beautiful Losers. Very entertaining!

Michel Garneau talked about accepting prizes and what kind of negative effect it can have on a writer (he drew on his own experience - political repercussions & not being able to write after, or as in Garneau's case accepting the 2nd.award formonetary reasons. (Michel Garneau didn't read any poetry). His comment was "if Leonard wants it, I wish him well."

George Elliott Clarke was the most convincing regarding the reasons put forth why Leonard should win a Nobel prize, how Leonard has bridged the divide which was created when poets turned away from Romanticism to Modernism and turned away from sentiments. He spoke about the medieval, the chivalry in Leonard's poems, how he holds the divine & human in tandem, his genius. Linked him to the greats, Garcia Lorca, T.S. Elliot & Keats.

Ted Kennedy read some of the poems & stated that " Leonard Cohen has traversed the boundaries of the generations; he can take great poetry and put it to music, Leonard Cohen understood what Homer undertook. He is a universal poet."
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Post by Tchocolatl » Sun Apr 03, 2005 7:20 pm

At Radio-Canada they are talking about this nobel affair regularly, since yesterday. Every half and hour, today, since this morning, it seems to me. This looks likevery serious, now. :shock: 8)

Out of the subject matter : Karen Young sang Everybody Knows at a March for Peace regarding the war with Irak. :)
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Post by linda_lakeside » Sun Apr 03, 2005 11:15 pm

Tchoco? Are you aware of a Ted Kennedy? At the CBC, I mean. I thought it was Paul Kennedy.

Kush, I thing Michel Garneau would agree with you!

Linda.
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