Highlighter Series: Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing was one of the first poetry books I learned to really carry with me. Not only physically, not just on bus rides and train journeys and bath-tub soakings, but internally. I learned to carry it with me on the inside. I knew whole passages by heart, often woke up with the verses spilling out of me; I found myself reciting certain poems on a daily basis, as if they had become mantras to me. Things I must keep swallowing down in order to keep them whole inside me. The poem in this book that hit me hardest, beat the wind right out of me, was “Thousands”. It’s the poem I turn to even now, roughly five long years after first finding it, every time I am filled with doubt, insecurity, crippling inferiority. It’s helps me remember that I am one of an infinite amount of want-to-be-writers and it is okay if I don’t ever “make it” because making it is arbitrary and making it is not the point. I am only here to tell my story.

One of the more interesting things about the collection is that it includes not only a selection of poems and prose pieces, but sketches, many of them self-portraits, by Leonard Cohen himself. The best thing about these, to me at least, is that they are deeply, fascinatingly human. Rough. Imperfect. Vulnerable. Here are a few of my favourites:

Had I only just recently found this book and its poetry, it’s possible that different passages would have resonated with me, and those that struck a chord when I was eighteen would not mean much at all to the person I am now. That being said, one of the things I love about the practice of highlighting books of poetry is that when I come across them many years later, it is like opening a time capsule full of all the things that mattered so much to me at a certain point in time. In regards to this book, here they are, here are the things I wanted to remember:

And Finally:

Contributing Editor /

Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.