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Take this waltz - Leonard Cohen transcreation of Frederico Garcia Lorca

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

‘O woodcutter, cut my shadow’ - Frederico Garcia Lorca

‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ - Leonard Cohen Prophet, poet, singer, songwriter, vate and pilgrim Leonard Cohen cites Frederico Garcia Lorca as a deep influence in his life, so much so that he named his daughter Lorca after the Spanish poet. Cohen was asked to translate Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz” and the result was this epiphany of sound and desire. A note on the history and context of this song describes its conception: In a 1992 interview, Cohen noted it took 150 hours to get the translation right, “…just to get it into English that resembled – I would never presume to say duplicated – the greatness of Lorca’s poem.”

The Canadian was no stranger to Vienna itself, having performed here on several occasions. In 1984, he said of local audiences:

“In Vienna, there’s a certain value placed on vulnerability. They like to feel you struggling. They’re warm, compassionate.”

This is a city song. a poem about desire, pulse and passion. a waltz about memory, nostalgia and the cinematic eye of a heart that has learnt the meaning of surrender. What magic happens when a poet riffs on another poet! This was originally released as a tribute to Lorca, a part of “The Poets in New York” album and it retains the smell of Lorca’s anti-establishment entreaty, his melancholic beauty- ‘Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws’ , ‘Take its broken waist in your hand’ .

“This poet ruined my life”, Cohen said of Lorca. His translation of Lorca is liberal and he finds himself within the shimmering froth of his sea of metaphor. I have loved and known Cohen through his songs, I have felt that sublime silence, that fetterless abandon, when he says “I want you, I want you, I want you”. I have met that measureless deep, and it is a gift of darkness (tipping hat to mary oliver) that I’d like to share with you today. Note: Don’t miss the song. I’ve shared his “You want it darker” before on Poetly, too.

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