Creativity at the End: Leonard Cohen on Preparing for Death

On that singular second on the finish of life when all artistic power is concentrated and consecrated.

“It’s the most supremely attention-grabbing second in life, the one one in actual fact when dwelling appears life,” wrote Alice James — William and Henry James’s equally good sister — as she confronted the tip of life with unusual grace and vitality.

A century-some after her, Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934–November 7, 2016) echoed these sentiments and added to them his personal depth as he reckoned with nearing the tip, discovering his artistic power clarified, concentrated, consecrated by the proximity of loss of life.

Take heed to the hummingbird
whose wings you can’t see,
take heed to the hummingbird —
don’t take heed to me.

Take heed to the thoughts of God,
which doesn’t have to be,
take heed to the thoughts of God —
don’t take heed to me.

Complement with Emily Levine on the right way to stay absolutely whereas dying and her studying of a shocking poem about the right way to stay and the right way to die, then revisit Leonard Cohen on language and the poetry of presence, democracy’s breakages and redemptions, and when (not) to give up a artistic venture.

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