The first time I heard Leonard Cohen’s music I was an undergrad in college. I was immediately mesmerized by his gravelly, hypnotic voice and his dark and moody subject matter that became fodder for many late night debates with my fellow students. What was the meaning of the words to “Suzanne” for instance, or “Hallelujah”? One of my professors said Cohen had done his job as poet by giving us a metaphor and letting us make our own meaning from it. I can still sing snatches of “Suzanne” and “A Thousand Kisses Deep” but the one verse I have loved most is from “Anthem”:
Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.
Ten years ago Simon and Schuster published one of my young adult novels called PICTURE PERFECT, about a family that looked serene and whole on the outside but behind the scenes they were all falling apart. Cohen’s lines helped me to refine the heart of my story for a teenaged audience: that nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.
The other day, I was reading quotes from Rumi, a thirteenth century poet and theologian and this line jumped out at me: The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
I wonder whether Mr. Cohen read that line someplace and internalized it, until it morphed into his own version. In any case, isn’t it cool that two poets, writing 700 years apart, arrived at the same profound truth? Reading it gave me goosebumps, and made me feel grateful that I, too get to be a storyteller, charged with figuring out universal truths and sharing them with readers. I wonder whether any of my words will be shared by others 700 years from now.
How about you? Are you a Cohen fan? Any quotes stuck in your head?