Greek newspapers write about Leonard Cohen's Hydra and our Event

Page 1 - two articles from 1999 & 2001

Rendezvous on Hydra

New album - and Leonard Cohen Event to
Celebrate the Canadian musician

by Maria Markouli
Ta Nea (”The News”), Athens, May 24, 2001

Translated by Demetris Tsimperis

Leonard Cohen has left his other self, monk Jikan, back at the Mt.Baldy Zen Centre in California. “Jikan” means “Silent One” and Cohen, the poet of rock, didn’t want to remain silent anymore. Thus, he left from the mountains and returned to Los Angeles and Hydra.

In the next few months his new songs will be released, among them “Alexandra Leaving” inspired by C.P.Cavafy’s poem "The God Abandons Anthony".

He wrote it on Hydra, in September 1999, and he posted it on the Internet, his regular way of communicating the last four years.

The album, which is to be released in autumn, will be the first with new songs after “The Future” in 1992. Certainly it will become one of the main topics for discussion the next summer in Hydra where his fans from all over the world will meet to “study” his work.

Hydra is one of his most loved places for inspiration and contemplation.

But also he himself returned to Saronic’s island. Probably wiser, if it is true that Eastern philosophy helps you to become wiser. In last September, the poet of rock and melancholia was there, reading Cavafy and meeting his friends. In September 1960, Cohen bought a house in Hydra so as to be able to work in isolation-his smartest decision he ever made as he later said.

“I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of sea-men must have lived here…All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best for work, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 min from my door.”

The Canadian songwriter, often enigmatic and remote, composes songs, since the 60’s about love, relationships and the most dark aspects of the human psyche that he encounters through his path to enlightment. At the age of 66 now he confirms the truth of songs like “Suzanne” “So long, Marianne”, “Bird On a Wire”.

The new ones are all ready and the working title of the album is “Ten New Songs”. The titles of the songs can also be found on the fan’s web pages: “In My Secret Life”, “By the Rivers Dark”, “Here It Is” “Boogie Street” and “The Love of Plenty”. Some others like “Love Itself”, “A Thousand Kisses Deep”, “You Have Loved Enough” were poems that appeared for the first time, together with “Alexandra Leaving” in the Blackening Pages section of the The Leonard Cohen Files (a site through which he communicates with his fans, by sending drawings and sketches together with new poems and thoughts).

“Some days I feel better about my work than others” he says “ but if I know something, it is that I have no control over it. And it always goes like this.”

It still goes like that. His new poetry book, "The Book of Longing," will consist mostly of poems written on Mt. Baldy.

On Hydra, Cohen fans have a lot of things to do in preparing the meeting. Many rock stars like Mick Jagger,Keith Richards and Pink Floyd have visited the island. But Leonard is the most consistent visitor. The number of participants in the Leonard Cohen Experience, 7-9 June 2000 is constantly rising, including fans from USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, Turkey and of course Greece. The program, that has been so far announced, includes panel discussions, poetry readings, films about him and some of his concerts (like the one in San Sebastian 1988), walking tours in places that somehow connect with Cohen and of course “Greek bouzoukia nights“.

There are many artists that have covered Cohen’s works-like Michael Stipe from R??, Nick Cave and Bono-and some of them will be invited to the meeting.Of course the first on the list will be Leonard himself, who however has not confirmed his presence there yet.

Demetris Tsimperis wants to thank Dick Straub and Evangelia Kakliou for their help.

No matter young or old, life is nice

Leonard Cohen returns to Hydra

by G.E.Karouzakis
Eleftherotypia, Athens, September 8, 1999

Translated by Demetris Tsimperis

Leonard Cohen is back to Hydra. The Canadian poet and song-writer has returned to his house on the island after almost a decade. His presence here is something familiar for the islanders. Everyone has a story to tell about Cohen from back in the 60’s. Some of them still remember his companies, his relationship with Marian Faithful or he himself playing the guitar in his house and writing some of the songs that later would become famous.

I met him accidentally on Saturday morning in the harbor front while he was drinking his coffee. He was wearing a brown vermouda and a dark shirt. His hair is gray (he is in his 65 year now).

His reaction -with a clear sight and a calm face-towards an unknown journalist who meets him by chance, recognizes him and wants to ask many questions about his life, shows clearly that all these years of Zen practice had an effect upon him.

In the afternoon he had chosen to drink his coffee alone in one of the island’s central cafes with a perfect view to the harbor. He was wearing a white shirt and vermouda.

We had been introduced in the morning so this time I asked if I could seat with him and talk a bit. He agreed. During our conversation he avoided in a skillful way every personal question and he tried o adjust the conversation to the beautiful sunset in Hydra.

«I like very much this special time of the day, when people are getting calm» he says in a low voice.

After a while he asks to learn more about the rest part of Greece. «I found myself here by chance, back in the early 60’s » he says.

When I tell him that many people consider his deep and expressive voice to be a divine gift he smiles: «That is because I don’t know how to sing».

He’s got a son and a daughter. The first is making also a music career. What does he think about it?

«It’s his own choice» says. It seems that he doesn't’t disagree with his son’s choices.

«HE decides» says pointing with his finger to heaven. Later he admits that all parents live for their children.

That same night there was an event taking place on the island in honor of the Greek film maker Theodoros Aggelopoulos.I asked him if he has ever seen any of his films. «Unfortunately not yet»he replies and asks: «Are everyday Greek people interested in his films the same as the intellectuals are?»

When our conversation comes to big cities he show his love for New York. He refuses to say anything about his Zen practice as a monk but when we talk about his house on Hydra he relaxes and he shows me a piece of paper with the Greek word for «basin» and a phone number written on it. «My house is too old now and it needs repairs» he says laughing.

Before we shake hands for goodbye I ask him to write me something as a dedication for our meeting:

«It was very good to meet you. I wish you well» he writes and then he suddenly says:«It is nice to be young». And what about growing old I ask him. «It is also nice. Life is nice» he replies.

The last time I had read something about Leonard Cohen was in a British newspaper. It said that he was living in a Zen monastery, six thousand feet above the sea, in the mountains of Los Angeles region, being a pupil of a Japanese Zen Master, Joshu Sasaki.

«As you grow older you realize how much alone you are and how much you need a deeper kind of love» he was telling to the British journalist. There was also an ...exotic picture of him, dressed in a monk’s robe with his head shaved.

The first day that I arrived in Hydra and sat in a cafe I was told that «this summer Cohen is also here». They had said that in a very calm and relaxed way as if they were talking about the return of a migrating bird or a friend.