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Poet Leonard Cohen splashes on to world stage at 22

Poet, musician, novelist, ladies' man, monk, actor... Leonard Norman Cohen, one of Canada's most influential cultural icons was born on Sept. 21, 1934 in Montreal. Whether from a mountaintop at a Buddhist retreat in California, on the Greek island of Hydra or strolling along the streets of his beloved ville d'amour, the melancholy bard of popular music has delighted fans worldwide with his poetry, novels and music.

Born to a wealthy Jewish family in the Westmount neighbourhood of Montreal, Leonard Cohen had a comfortable upbringing. His father, a successful businessman, died when Cohen was nine but he enjoyed a close relationship with his mother.
Cohen began writing seriously at McGill University and was part of the bohemian literary scene in Montreal. He was only 22, still an undergrad at McGill, when he raised eyebrows with his first collection of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956).

Five years later he catapulted to international fame with The Spice-Box of Earth (1961), his second collection of poetry.
Cohen performed two poems, Twelve O'Clock Chant and Out of the Land of Heaven (for Marc Chagall) from that collection on CBC in 1958.
• "Leonard Cohen began as a burnt-out writer." Saskatchewan poet Eli Mandel upon encountering a 19-year-old Cohen.

• Leonard Cohen's maternal grandfather was a writer and published a Hebrew dictionary called Lexicon of Hebrew Homonyms.
Medium: Radio
Program: Anthology
Broadcast Date: April 22, 1958
Performer: Leonard Cohen
Duration: 3:12

Last updated: March 29, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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