Leonard Cohen Tutors Us on the Difference between a Song and a Poem
Working on songs, he sits, guitar in hand, coffee and cigarette before him, in front of his typewriter at the kitchen table. How do the work demands between song and written verse differ? “It’s not that different, really. I guess it’s because the pace I work at is so very slow. All forms of writing tend to partake of the same activity – revision and revision.
"When you’re working with just a printed text, whatever gestalt you convey has to be within the flesh of the syntax. You won’t have the guitar to move the words along. It’s like placing things in aspic: They live on the pages – the words and phrases – and they have to be written with that in mind. The ideas and emotions are not fluid in the sense that a song is. They have a kind of rhythm and authority, but it’s a different kind of process. But I like to make sure that my lyrics stand an examination on the page."
Leonard Cohen in an interview with Tom Chaffin from “Conversations from a Room,” Canadian Forum, August/September 1983.