The Death of Leonard Cohen
Similar to answering the question as to one’s favourite writer is the question of favourite singer. It changes by times and mood swings. I suppose if I was to give a quick answer as to my favourite singers the short list would include Bob Dylan, the early Bob; The Beatles, Niall Young, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams, Dolores Keane and Leonard Cohen. I was disappointed after being at concerts of Dylan and Niall Young. I was disappointed with myself for not making a better effort to see Bruce Springsteen in Croke Park last summer. However there was one big positive in that I did go to hear Leonard Cohen with encouragement from a friend. The concert was in the grounds of Lissadell House north of Sligo town.
The suave, polished Cohen had been forced to return to touring as a result of being robbed by his manager of much of his wealth. He had performed at Dublin venues but Lissadell was just down the road. He had come as near as possible to me.
The setting of course was pretty unique not just in its landscape environment but the ghost of Yeats permeated that environment also. It was the last day of July 2010. If I remember correctly we made our way to the performance amphitheatre via the beach. When Leonard Cohen came on stage he quickly imbued the audience with his spirit. He announced that he hoped we would enjoy the concert and assured us that ‘we are going to give it our all’. He had wonderful musicians and backing singers which layered his performance. Once he was regarded as the ‘poet laureate of pessimism’ but now he seemed more optimistic and engaging. He is quoted as saying ‘The older I get, the surer I am that I am not running the show’. Indeed with the death of a muse of his and the inspiration for one of his great songs, Norwegian Marianne Mollestad, he suggested that she “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.” So it transpired.
At Lissadell he coursed through the catalogue of iconic songs from Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy, Everybody Knows, Chelsea Hotel and
Bird on the Wire
Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.
His encore song was the great hymn Hallelujah. He suggested that many of his songs were ‘muffled prayers’ but ‘So Long, Marianne’ is just a great if forlorn love song.
‘So long, Marianne, it's time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again’.
At Lissadell Leonard Cohen certainly reached out and touched his audience with his mind. It’s a fond and meaningful memory.
Congratulations to Phil Emmett on being nominated ‘Lady Golfer of the Year’ in Carrick-on-Shannon Golf Club. It is suggested that her husband is thinking of taking up the position of full time caddy for his achieving partner.
On a totally different theme the said Mister Emmett suggested that he has read more poetry in this blog than he did at secondary school. Many people remember fragments of poetry that they touched on in school, for much of their lives. Those fragments are awakened and expanded by references to them or tripping across them in adulthood. Poetry can of course be challenging but there is much of it accessible also. For some people their favourite book is a book of poetry such as a Seamus Heaney collection. One of Heaney’s poetry collection published in 1996 is called ‘The Spirit Level’. I think the title is really clever. For someone who wishes to return, as it were, to poetry I suggest that you search out an anthology such as ‘The Oxford Book of English Verse’ where a selection of the classic recognisable poems are to be found. There are anthologies dedicated to the work of Irish poets in English. Maybe a collection like ‘Favourite poems we learned at school’. Actually, now that I think of it, the classic poetry book used by many in secondary schools, ‘Soundings’, is a great collection of poems of varying degrees of difficulty. The bonus with ‘Soundings’ is that you might be familiar with a selection of the poems already. Also you might have a copy in a box in the attic! If not it was re-published a short number of years ago and I am sure it can be sourced easily enough. The first stage for many people is overcoming their prejudice towards the medium of poetry as being too difficult, an echo of grey school days, forced feeding and so on. Yet the purest writing is poetry, the finest ideas and images with the most economical use of words. Leonard Cohen was a poet first and then a singer of his poems/songs.
Speaker of (Irish) House
I was kinda watching the news, on Thursday evening, over my shoulder as I do when an image came up from some Leinster House political coverage. It didn’t seem fully right. Still with modern television technology I was able to rewind, then forward in slow-mo, freeze, and there he was as large as life in the Ceann Comhairle’s seat our own Eugene Murphy T.D. I only bumped him in Boyle on Monday with Micheal Martin leader of Fianna Fail. Now he has been elevated to being Chairman of the Dail. Since the regular Ceann Comhairle is Sean Ó Fearghaíl I presume Eugene’s elevation is as a substitute. Still it is a pretty meteoric rise for him in such a short time. But if Trump and Farage can do it then why cannot a more benign likeable politician like Eugene make his own waves.
The U.S. Election…… Epilogue
I imagine that my views on the U.S. election are pretty clear to regular readers of these paragraphs. I received an interesting email from a friend of mine who has been in the U.S. going on thirty years. It shows a confusion with it all. (I have encouraged readers before to submit short pieces/letters for consideration to publish here. The aspiration has been that this is a community site/forum. So please do.)
“Hi there Tony, just a few quick comments on the election.
First would be the great sense of relief that it is finally over. Everyone I know and talk to here are just fed up listening to it day in and night out.
As to the result it was a shock in some ways but I believe the comment of Bernie Sanders today that he was disappointed with the Democratic Party as a whole because they were not in touch with the common people. That goes a long way to describe what happened.
The campaign itself was the most negative childish and disgraceful show of everything that is wrong with politics here.
We watched three debates where not one positive policy item was even touched upon. Instead they both were delving into the past mistakes of the other side which just came across as dirty laundry and would make anyone ashamed that these two could be considered the best candidates that should be chosen out of the over 400 million people here.
As to the pollsters one would do well to remember how wrong the mainstream media were until you consider the money involved. The Donald has claimed he spent $120 million on the campaign of his own money there are rumours that the Democratic war chest was closer to $1 Billion. When you take into account that most of which was spent on media advertising you can see how the different stations were forced to become a part of the process
One of the facts that has emerged from this whole debacle is how the news media was manipulated by the both sides and as such have lost all credibility as independent agencies. Even on election night we had the mainstream stations calling it fairly even until about one thirty in the morning when Fox News were already claiming victory about an hour ahead of that and both sides were getting the news from each state at the same time .
And now the aftermath we have our president elect and the lunacy continues. They are riots/protests in the streets, you have Harvard professors telling their students that the mid-term exams are optional for students that may be upset with the outcome. And most of the big Ivy League schools were providing grief counselling for anyone effected by it . Mind you we would expect that these great institutions would be producing our future leaders so it does not bode well for us
As for Trump himself it is emerging that he is already starting to soften his tone a little regarding the main issues like getting rid of ‘Obama Care’. Now he is saying that certain parts of it make sense to keep and he will not dismiss it until he has a replacement system in place etc.
See, not to worry, he is becoming a politician already.
Good night Irene I’ll see you in my dreams”.
In my list of Boyle people abroad, two weeks ago, I missed out on a number of people as I knew I would. So hi to Nicky in London, Niall Mc Cr. in the U.S. James Candon in Brussels, Joseph Moran in Sydney, Catriona Moran and family in Singapore, the boys in Vietnam, Kate Gilmartin Japan, Neil Nangle in Bahrain not Dubai, as I said last time. I’m sure there are many more and we would like to have a more complete list in the run up to Christmas!
I see that the Roscommon Herald is making an effort to introduce some Irish in their paper this week (page 91). I’d like to try and improve my Irish or recover the capacity I once had with the language. The page is being written by Fergal Jennings who now lives near Frenchpark. I liked the idea of a short piece written in Irish and then translated into English which facilitates the meaning of some unfamiliar words. So I would disagree with not continuing that element of the page. Anyway it is an effort in what has always been a difficult task.
Congratulations to the Boyle U 12 Keenan Cup winning team and commiserations to the under 20 team on a close run thing.
I meant to congratulate the Abbey Community College’s traditional group on their recent success in Kerry which I do now. I presume it will get a local hearing sometime. Such exercises add a sparkle to school-going days.
I haven’t been there yet as I take up my annual stewarding duties tonight Friday night. I look forward to it as I always do. It is a great community effort and an antidote to the bleak winter weather which has just arrived after a considerable great reprieve.
I see Abbey Community College is also ‘putting on’ a musical next spring so that too will add to calendar of events. Perhaps it will act as starting block for another Chris O’Dowd.
The Influence of Fox.
Barack Obama comment on U.S. T.V. show Bill Maher “If I watched Fox News regularly I wouldn’t vote for me either”.