Leonard Cohen fans from around the world flocking to Montreal to celebrate poet and visit his haunts

Singer appreciates the attention but is staying in California

Anne Marie Owens

National Post, May 12, 2000

They have listened to his music, studied his poetry, and pored over his writings; now they can visit his favourite smoked meat shop and see where he bought his bagels.

Leonard Cohen fans are coming from as far away as Finland and Australia for a weekend symposium at McGill University dedicated to the gravelly voiced poet-singer-novelist, in what is believed to be the first gathering of its kind in his native Montreal.

The object of their affection, who has spent much of the past five years atop a California mountain in a Buddhist retreat, will not be attending. However, he has sent three new songs, works-in-progress from his first album since The Future, which was released in 1992.

"He's very appreciative that people would come from all over, and it's special because it's in Montreal. But it would be awkward for him to go and listen to people talk about him," said Kelley Lynch, Mr. Cohen's manager in Los Angeles, who will be introducing the new songs at the event's opening ceremony tonight.

The main draw for most of the 160 or so people who will be attending is to meet others as captivated by Mr. Cohen and his work as they are, said Bill Van Dyk, a computer systems manager from Kitchener, Ont., and chairman of the conference.

"If you talk to most Cohen fans they'll say they don't know many people who are Cohen fans," he said.

The conference had its genesis in an Internet newsgroup about Mr. Cohen and his work, and was organized by e-mail by a committee of fans.

There have been similar get-togethers in Paris and England -- even Poland has an annual Cohen festival -- but this event has a special appeal, said Mr. Van Dyk, as it features a walking tour of Montreal and a meal at Moishe's, which is described as "Leonard's favourite Montreal restaurant."


This is the first half of an unreleased song by Leonard Cohen to be released at the convention


The ponies run, the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.
You win a while, and then it's done --
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat,
You live your life as if it's real,
A thousand kisses deep.
I'm turning tricks, I'm getting fixed,
I'm back on Boogie Street.
You lose your grip, and then you slip
Into the Masterpiece.
And maybe I had miles to drive,
And promises to keep:
You ditch it all to stay alive,
A thousand kisses deep
And sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go,
A thousand kisses deep.

Written by Leonard Cohen

© 2000

Used by Permission. All rights reserved.

© 2000 by Anne Marie Owens and National Post