CBC Literary Prizes

Glossa for Leonard Cohen's "Anthem" by Sonja Arntzen

Sonja Arntzen has made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Glossa for Leonard Cohen's "Anthem."

2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

Sonja Arntzen taught classical Japanese poetry and literature for 25 years and has published two books of poetry. (N. Halpin)

Sonja Arntzen has made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Glossa for Leonard Cohen's "Anthem."

About Sonja

Sonja Arntzen taught classical Japanese poetry and literature for 25 years. Still a professor emerita at the University of Toronto, she continues to research and translate works of classical literature, particularly women's poetic diaries of the 10th and 11th centuries. Her most recent translation is The Sarashina Diary. Since 2005, she has been publishing her own English tanka and haiku in journals such as Gusts, Eucalypt, Kokako and Red Lights. With Naomi Beth Wakan, she also produced two books of "response tanka," Double Talk and Reflections.

Entry in five-ish words

Meditation for a dark time

The poem's source of inspiration

"I belong to a small poet's group on Gabriola Island. The founder of our group, Janet Vickers, presented a glossa on a verse from Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and I was much taken with this form which originated in medieval Spain and performs an elaboration of a quatrain by writing nine lines for each line of the quatrain and incorporating the rhymes of the original quatrain in the sixth and ninth lines of each verse. I like the constraint of writing in fixed forms, since most of my poetry writing has been in the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka. I have always found the chorus of Leonard Cohen's Anthem as consoling as a prayer and thought it would make a fine foundation for a glossa. I studied P.K. Page's wonderful collection of glossa Hologram for inspiration too, but after several failed attempts at the glossa, I laid it aside. Then in November of 2016, the sadness at the loss of Leonard Cohen's embodied voice and despair over the results of the 2016 American election propelled me to complete the glossa. The poem pays homage to both Leonard Cohen and P.K. Page."

First lines

In this dark and distempered time
when the jackals of hate and fear
have been loosed upon the world
even in democracy's name —
while anger fills the sails of tinpot
demagogues whose hollow ding
clatters in the ears, fouls the mind,
while bloated behemoths of capital
clamour for fossil fuel's last fling,
ring the bells that still can ring.

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