The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Creativity at the End: Leonard Cohen on Preparing for Death

“It is the most supremely interesting moment in life, the only one in fact when living seems life,” wrote Alice James — William and Henry James’s equally brilliant sister — as she faced the end of life with uncommon grace and vitality.

A century-some after her, Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934–November 7, 2016) echoed these sentiments and added to them his own depth as he reckoned with nearing the end, finding his creative energy clarified, concentrated, consecrated by the proximity of death.

Listen to the hummingbird
whose wings you cannot see,
listen to the hummingbird —
don’t listen to me.

Listen to the mind of God,
which doesn’t need to be,
listen to the mind of God —
don’t listen to me.

Complement with Emily Levine on how to live fully while dying and her reading of a stunning poem about how to live and how to die, then revisit Leonard Cohen on language and the poetry of presence, democracy’s breakages and redemptions, and when (not) to quit a creative project.

Published September 21, 2022




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