Letters From Leonard
As was true of yesterday’s post, “Does danger cure?” Postcard From Leonard Cohen (& Marianne) To Redmond Wallis 1965. today’s entry fits best in the How About That category (A DrHGuy specialty) but does offer a few delicacies for Cohen fans to savor.
Images of the correspondence between Leonard Cohen, then a student at Columbia University, and Ralph Gustafson, a Canadian poet and university professor, about including Cohen’s work in a Penguin anthology of poetry Gustafson was editing are online at the University of Saskatchewan Library, Special Collections. I’ve reproduced a couple of the letters from Cohen as well as the $10 check he received in payment. (click on images to enlarge)
The letter atop this post is Cohen’s response to Gustafson’s original letter proposing that two of the poems, “Ballad” end “When This American Woman” from Let Us Compare Mythologies be reprinted in the forthcoming Penguin anthology of Canadian poetry.1 Gustafson’s letter also pointed out an error in apostrophe placement in “Ballad,” which Cohen’s response does not address. I am, for obscure reasons, somehow delighted that Leonard Cohen, a student at Columbia who is writing to an important poet who wants to publish his work, mentions in this short epistle that he had a hamburger with Hank Nevard the night before.
The letter directly below, written on International House stationery, offers the biographical information Gustafson requested along with a plea that the editor choose an alternative to “When This American Woman,” because “I [Cohen] don’t think it’s any good.”
And the show me the money piece:
The entire correspondence set, including the text of the images, can be accessed at Ralph Gustafson Collection - Correspondence, Leonard Cohen
Upcoming: This not the only significant interaction between Leonard Cohen and Ralph Gustafson. Another post about a less congenial event is forthcoming.
- Text follows:
599 Belmont Avenue
June 14, 1956
I’m delighted that you like the book and that you might include me in the Penguin.
The book has been going we’ll: most of the first small edition (450) already sold and a second in consideration. Excited to hear this morning that Critically Speaking will review it. July 1st at 4:30 pm, if you have the time and a powerful radio.
I am leaving Montreal next week for a children’s camp outside of Ottawa, and returning for the month of September. Then I’ll be in New York for the next year or two doing an English M.A. at Columbia. I hope we can meet.
Had a hamburger last night with Hank Nevard who is working very hard on forthcoming Bar exams and he sends his regards.
How Is the novel? I’d very much like to talk to you about the differences between poetic and prose disciplines. Anxious to read your work. Thanks for the note and encouragement.
P.S. I’ll find out about your order to Contact Press. But if you want another book I’d be happy to send you one. [↩]