Greek newspapers write about our Event

Page 2 - Event Reports in Ta Nea ("The News")

On Hydra the important things

by Maria Markouli

Ta Nea (”The News”), Athens, June 4, 2002

Translated by Demetris Tsimperis

“I am too shy” was Leonard Cohen’s answer to the invitation of his fans to be with them this weekend on Hydra.

Leonard Cohen’s fans from all over the world will be there. On Hydra, the island that has always a place in poet and troubadour’s heart, to honor him and approach his work even closer.

Actually, it will be the second gathering - “The Leonard Cohen Experience” as they call it - the first one took place two years ago in Montreal, the city in which he was born and raised.

Hydra is the place of his choice. Leonard Cohen arrived on the island in one of his travels in 1960 and he was hooked by it. His anchor there was the house that he bought in which he wrote many of his poems and songs. Many years later he said that this purchase was the “most clever decision of his life”.

“I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of seamen must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion . . . I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. 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 minutes from my door.”

250 fans from worldwide will follow his steps there. They are going to read his poems while viewing the sunset, and the will sing his lyrics in the same place where they were written, in the narrow streets of Hydra.

But Leonard Cohen himself returns to Greece. His new album “Ten New Songs”, the first one after the “Future” which was released a decade ago has a Greek aura in it. The Canadian troubadour was inspired this time by Cavafy and this is “heard” very clearly in his song “Alexandra Leaving”. “Greece is a good place /To look at the moon, isn’t it/You can read by moonlight/You can read on the terrace” he said many years ago.

“The program of the Event contains poetry readings, documentaries on his life and work and concerts in video presentation says Demetris Tsimperis who is in close cooperation with Jarkko Arjatsalo from Finland in organizing this gathering.

Various artists will be there to sing Cohen’s songs like Henk Hofstede from the Dutch group “The Nits” with his compatriot Seppo Pietikdinen, Jan Erik Lundqvist from Sweden, Yasmine from Belgium and Suzanne Holland from California.

The invasion of Cohenists on Hydra has already begun - Leonard Cohen can’t be wrong.

Cohenists' Invasion in Saronic

by Maria Markouli

Ta Nea (”The News”), Athens, June 11, 2002

Translated by Demetris Tsimperis

Leonard Cohen’s friends arrived in Hydra. From all over the world: fans from Canada, New Zealand, Britain, literally from everywhere followed his steps to the island.

A line, a melody, the bright and away from publicity personality of Leonard can be the ticket. From Kozani or Texas, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is the response of the soul. In the narrow streets of Hydra, “the response of the soul” was walking wearing a pin that looked like an old coin, on of those that carry history, myth and mystery behind them. 250 “Cohenists” looked as they knew the island very well. What from Cohen has each of them in his luggage I would really like to know and not just out of curiosity.

Cohen himself won’t be at Hydra during this gathering. He said that he is “too shy for something like that”. But he offered material and unpublished photos to Jarkko.

Jarkko Arjatsalo from Finland is the man that has dedicated his time and love to maintain the best site about Cohen in the Internet. Through the years his site has become a place of reference for the fans –moreover this gathering was organized through it. Two years ago “Cohenists” met in Montreal, the city in which Cohen was born.

“The next choice was of course Hydra. (Cohen owns a house there, he lived many years and was inspired on the island). I can’t deny that I was a bit hesitant at first, because the island is small and it would be difficult to have what we had needed. But I am very happy that a hot August’s week that I spent here two years ago made me change my mind. We couldn’t find a better place for our meeting” says Jarkko.

In this island Cohen wrote some of his best works, prose and poetry. Some of the songs of his last album-Ten New Songs- were written on Hydra. And now? Right now Leonard is in Los Angeles, writing new songs for his next album, and if his well-known perfectionism doesn’t intervene, his wish is to release it soon.

Locals remember Cohen walking in the harbor with his komboloi, drinking coffee, talking with fishermen about fish. “When is he coming?” Information …from within says he might be here in September when he will have more free time. Besides his house is open. His daughter, Lorca, is staying right now. Every petit brunette young lady I saw I thought it was she. When I met her finally on Sunday night, during the last “Open Mic” session, I recognized her at once. She looks alike her father. Modest, pretty.

Is Cohen handsome? He is charming, women love him - perhaps because first of all, he loves them. He has never been married. “Why?” the journalist Stina Lundberg-Dabrowski asked him in an interview last year in Paris that made you feel jealous. “Out of cowardice” was Leonard’s reply.

The event took place in the church hall at evenings. In the mornings, fans made tours to his house, to the monasteries, to various sites of the island.

Jarkko said to me that I shouldn’t miss the interview titled “Back on Boogie Street”. In it, Leonard has just returned from the Zen center at Mt.Baldy. The landscape has the serenity, wildness and mystery of Twin Peaks. We watch Cohen taking off the monks clothes, cooking chicken soup - “my mother’s recipe” - and talking about life there. “The monastery is a bit like a hospital,” he says. “Curing you from what illness” asks the interviewer. “It cures you from the illusion that you are sick”. The sickness of not being satisfied with what you have, of believing that somewhere else there is a better life, a better lover, that there is always something that you have never tried.”

For many things you can admire Cohen, for his words and for his songs, but also for the manner in which he escapes from what a lot of people believe that he is. Melancholic and pessimist? A man with Cohen’s humor? “It was a joke”, again. It’s just a joke – he says when you approach his writings and slips away in his personal way of dealing with life.

He doesn’t like being the one that is followed. He prefers to follow…

With Cavafy and songs

Greek fans of Leonard Cohen arrived prepared. Demetris Tsimperis, a Physics teacher from Kozani, read Cavafy making a connection with Leonard’s “Alexandra Leaving”. Giorgos Mitas, another Cohen fan from Athens, experienced Hydra very differently this time. Through Internet and the invitation of a friend Katerina Tsiompanou found herself on the island. Sam Sebban, a plastic surgeon from Paris, declared his love for Cohen and the Greek singer Haris Alexiou. Henk Hofstede of the “Nits” sung Cohen’s songs.