The Next Chapter

Randy Boyagoda reviews Leonard Cohen's final poetry collection, The Flame

The author and columnist says The Flame deserves another look.
Randy Boyagoda is an author, academic and columnist. (CBC)

Randy Boyagoda is a literary critic, English professor, novelist and The Next Chapter columnist. He will chair the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize jury.

Boyagoda read The Flame, a collection of Leonard Cohen's last poems.

First encounter

"My impression of Leonard Cohen's life goes back to a really important moment in my own life as a writer which happened when I was probably 14 years old. I was watching TV and randomly caught a TV re-broadcast of a 1965 National Film Board documentary called Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen. It's this beautiful profile of Cohen done in the mid-1960s, just as he was emerging as a major figure in Canadian culture."  

Unsurprisingly warm and beautiful 

"Reading The Flame, it's unsurprisingly a beautiful volume of Cohen's late poetry, original artwork and selections from his notebooks that date back decades. The editors suggest, in a speculative but confident sense, that Cohen would have wanted this to come out as it did.

"The Flame 'warms up' and highlights his entire body of work. That's why I like the title. It doesn't expose anything. It doesn't make anything brighter. But there's a warmer sense I think of Leonard Cohen as a writer and as a person writing that we get from this collection. It warms up our sense of this very cool guy."

Randy Boyagoda's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 


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