One by one the guests arrive
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few
And those who dance begin to dance
And those who weep begin

Welcome, welcome, cries a voice
Let all my guests come in

- From The Guests
by Leonard Cohen

Several years ago I was, again, delved into the song lyrics of Leonard Cohen in order to find some lines that could serve as a welcome greeting on the front page of The Leonard Cohen Files. After reading these stanzas of The Guests I didn’t have to continue the search. These words so well describe the basics of our on-line community; and not only what is happening in the electric dimensions, but also and especially what we are about to experience here on the beautiful island of Hydra.

During my years as the webmaster I have received innumerable emails from people who are delighted and excited after finding sameminded people. Many of them have examined Leonard’s songs and poetry alone for years or even decades, not knowing that there are so many similar souls, maybe geographically far away, but nowadays easily accessible through the Cohen websites and message boards.

On Hydra we are breaking the invisible chains and limitations of the digital world. Instead of reading what’s written on the websites, typing our emails and Newsgroup messages, gazing into the little screen to find out what is said in the chatroom – now we are going to experience much more in the Real Life. We are able to meet and touch each other, to dine and drink together – we may check if the vision we have created during these on-line years is apt or not.

This is the third big Leonard Cohen gathering organized totally on-line. The series began in Lincoln, UK, in 1998, followed by the Montreal 2000 Event. I must confess that at the beginning I was a little skeptic about Hydra – I thought the island is too small and has only limited resources. I was more than happy to change my mind after a hot August week on the island in 2000 – it is hard to imagine a place better for our purposes! After the get-together in Montreal, Leonard’s birthplace, it is logical to continue our quest here in Greece. This is the island that inspired Leonard and helped him to create many of his best songs, poetry, and novels.

Leonard once described his working methods to Paul Zollo, author of “Songwriters about Songwriting”:

"I am a working stiff. It takes me months and months to break the code of a song. To find out if there can be a song there. I bring anything that I can bring to it: Thought, meditation, drinking, disillusion, insomnia, vacations. Once the song enters the mill, it's worked on by everything I can summon. I try everything. I try to ignore it, try to repress it, try to get high, try to get intoxicated, try to get sober, all the versions of myself that I can summon are summoned to participate in this project, this work force. I try everything. I'll do anything. By any means possible."

Hydra and its artist community provided the framework for his struggle. We are privileged to examine, share and enjoy the results of his unique career as novelist, poet, and singer-songwriter here on Hydra.

Thanks to all of you who have helped made this Experience possible:

First and foremost – thanks to Leonard Cohen. He has been very kind in supporting this meeting; he prepared special artistic items for the Hydra booklet and gave us permission to reprint many of the poems he wrote on Hydra as well as photos from his archives. Many items are published here for the first time! Leonard has also provided wonderful Unified Heart rings as gifts to all participants. He will certainly be with us in spirit even though he is not with us physically.

Kelley Lynch at Stranger Management has assisted greatly. Kelley supplied video materials and needed helping hands along the way.

Kelsey Edwards and David Fagan of Saronicnet have played a fundamental role in this Experience. Without their on-site organization help we wouldn’t be here. Bobbie Chalou, Henning Franz and Demetris Tsimperis have served as Organizing Committee to make the program as appealing as possible. Ania Nowakowska and Kadir Ercan have given us their artistic talents. Dick Straub and Adi Heindl have helped with editing this booklet, and Ira B. Nadel kindly gave permission to reprint portions of his excellent Cohen biography, “Various Positions.” Charles Gurd provided photos he took in the early 1970’s of Leonard meditating on his Hydra terrace.

This has been also a family project! My wife, Eija, has helped me in the long process of organizing the event and registering our participants. My son, Rauli, programmed the secured payment system for on-line registration, and allowed me to use many of his photos.

My warm thanks also go to all of you who have sent ideas, essays for this booklet, comments, pieces of information, and supportive feedback during the planning period. Our artists and performers, both professional and amateur, will provide us with much pleasure by sharing their interpretations of Leonard’s songs and poetry. Several filmmakers have generously allowed us to show their productions. The financial contributions from our sponsors have added much of value to everyone here. Many volunteers have helped to make the registration process as smooth as possible. Our talented announcers will provide the glue to hold the Open Mic sessions together. Putting the Experience together has been like making a big puzzle: for the final picture every piece is equally important.

Dear friends: welcome! The Leonard Cohen Experience 2002, here on the wonderful island of Hydra, will be a memorable oasis for our wandering hearts.

Jarkko Arjatsalo

Photo at the top of this page shows the painting presented me at the Open Mic on Sunday by our Participants. I want to thank all of you for the wonderful surprise! Both Eija and I enjoyed the Event very much - it was like a dream that came true! See you all next time! - Jarkko

Photo by Andrea V. Janett