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Leonard Cohen’s Magick Writing Desk

In high school and throughout my studies {as a student of English Literature} at University of Toronto, I had the good fortune of having under my possession, a magickal writing desk. It was a massive desk, made of ancient bog oak, with 4 drawers, 2 on each side. An impressive piece of wood.

Seated at its helm I was Captain of a fantastic specular flight deck. Specular, because it possessed a powerful, automatic-writing-capacity. A looking glass of sorts, given to the kind of reflection inspired by the vision of sky, reflected in a lough, clouds drifting past mountains upside-down on the other side. And I was its soothsayer, seeking in its flat oak top, my divining pool – My future, skulking beneath the surface of its dark water.

I consulted my dictionary for the Latin meaning of the word “specular” and found “speculum” at its root – a device used for opening cavities. In a way it was not unlike a chrome speculum- that cold, unfriendly tool, familiar to gynaecologists and their willing victims. I was Dr. Spec, Explorer of the Deepest Caverns of my own Subconscious Mind and The Desk, my Starship Enterprise – teleporting me through inter-dimensional space and time, into the unseen portals of my imagination, unveiling parallel universes and penetrating past lives – at warp speed.

At any rate it was a desk built with intentionand for a higher purpose no doubt.

It had at one time reportedly belonged to Leonard Cohen, the famous Canadian recording artist. It came from Montreal, purchased at a garage sale for a few dollars. Given to me one winter’s day as the snow flies by an old band mate of Neil Young’s. I grew up on the same street as Neil Young in North Toronto. A Boulevard actually- Old Orchard, Boulevard of Daydreams.

One Saturday afternoon my father and Comrie Smith, Neil’s old buddy and our next-door neighbour, carried the writing desk out his back-door, across the street, in through our back-door, down our back staircase and into my bedroom, which was in the basement of our old house. And strangely, almost straight away, the silverfish and centipedes disappeared overnight ~ never to bother me ~ ever again.

That was the first indication. This was no ordinary writing desk.

Increasingly my thoughts began to wander down unexplored avenues, never-ending streams, celestial gardens and forest pathways unfolded, dream-like landscapes of the mind exploding, as I stared on the blank page and contemplated the words of Poe, Pound and Plath. My unrelenting muse had visaged and the doors of perception opened wide.

My writing style developed rapidly at the desk. Tempered, I imagine, by the light of its cool refraction.

Sunbeams and wood nymphs skipped across its chestnut stage. A rainbow slide glided over its golden plane. Oh the flights of fancy it entertained !

My best poem, The Fire Escape, was not written by me – but by the desk’s own doing. Seemingly in a matter of moments – and at will. It came out at once, fully formed in front of me, eye glistening like an oyster pearl. It was late in the evening while reading some Irving Layton, some weird ménage à trois spontaneously erupted on the desk before me; As I read Layton’s lines and mocked their misogyny with Cohen as my ally. The desk had given me permission to do, and to write, as I pleased. Everything I thought fit.

It was The Desk, not I, that transcribed Wagner’s Tristan and Iseult from Iseult’s POV and turned the entire opening sequence into a demented country-blues song based on The Tristan Chord, which at the time I didn’t even know existed. The desk held the key to The Secret Chord That David PlayedAnd It Pleased The Lord. The Desk was the holy-fucking-grail !

It was the desk that made short work deciphering all those grant forms and student loan application forms I had to fill out. Practical Magick too – very important.

Miraculously my spelling improved overnight.

Looking back I believe it was The Desk witch wrote all my term papers, all my essays, all my songs, all my poems, all my letters and filled out all my application forms. I was merely its translator, its interpreter. I was channelling The Desk !

I’ll never forget the day my father sold it. I was not present at its removal. I fell ill and was forced to lay in bed for several weeks. And I can not say if I ever fully recovered from its suchness- such a colossal loss of words that befell upon me.

After the letting go of the desk Cohen too developed a rare form of writer’s block. He still spends entire days on one word. He said so himself. It took him 11 years to write Hallelujah. That desk, which made him burst into tears while it wrote Suzanne – gone. Vanished forever like the mythical island of Hether Blether.

Or perhaps, it is sitting silently in someone’s basement corner. Watching. And waiting – to whisper all the lost lines of every writer who ever sat down to write something by it.

I shudder to think, a disused piece of furniture, surrounded by musty couches and boxes of dusty old books, a broken chair, an empty shelf, biding its time for The Repossession. Or worse – in some puritan’s garage, who, fearing its power, could administer the final death sentence by cold fire ?

The truth is I no longer know anything about it.

Only that sometimes it calls me by name.

And even now as I am fevered with the invocation to write, I hear its crackled voice, feel its quiet yearning.

By Catherine F. Simpson

The Death Of Rock’ N Roll

The Death of Rock’n Roll

or The Phallacy –

Behold! Like starry skies

Guitars that amplify

His eyes.

A meteoric rise,

and a spectacular fall from Grace-

that perfectly adorns

His face.

Pale green is the colour –

$$$$ – of my leather-clad

lover, whose heart,

would not be broken.

And yet there never was another,

so exquisitely sublime,

sustained like feedback-

lost in time.

His Nibs, Prince of Darkness-

Cernunnos of Satyresses

ROCK N ROLL IS DEAD

Unless we RESURR>E-RECT

>Hishornyhead<

Are we not, His faithful flock,

Worshipping on bended knee,

Dropping nickels in the jukebox-

The Raving Cult of His Celebrity ?

Half-Cut / My Mother Bets On Horses 10-1

My mother bets all the house-keeping on horses. She lays down her bets as they race round the courses. Her family says that it’s horses for courses.  She backs the outsider and takes home the winnings. She always complains that the bookies are skimming. With the eyes in her head like 2 fishes swimming.

*The theme of this poem is outsiders, fishing and swimming.

Dead Nuns

Dead Nuns

for the Women and Child Victims of the Magdalene Asylums and for the Tuam Babies who will have their revenge on them who took the Vow of Silence.

Dead Nuns
Don’t Come
Dead Nuns
– Un
done

An open casket
She wove the basket
17th century –
Burnt wench
ie

Dead Nuns
Don’t Come
Dead Nuns
– Un
sung

The Virgin Mary
Quite contrary
Sexless vessel –
Second Sex

Dead Nuns
Don’t Come
Dead Nun
s

Unloved

Black Sabbath
White Rabbit
She’s castrated
– Sedated

Dead Nuns
Don’t Come
Dead Nuns
– No
fun

Criticism: I Shall Not Die For Thee- A Translation Erasure-Sonnet

 

“The ostentatiousness in Douglas Hyde’s original translation of the old Irish love poem “I Shall Not Die For Thee”, is successfully lost in translation,  or “erased”, in the new Translation Erasure-Sonnet , while the essence of the poem’s pompestuous language and the bard’s objectification of women (in general), is subverted with a sardonic twist, by the gender-reversal  perspective of the erasure poet’s, imagined translation. Subtle, clever and hilarious – top marks for originality.

Fanny McFarland’s Sonnet-Erasure Translation Poetry– a new genre? Takes the math out of the Sonnet Picture-Frame, almost entirely..”

-ÜberExperimental Writing Techniques, Drawn and Quartered

Translation Erasure-Sonnet, “I Shall Not Die For Thee” -Translation na mBan

Malcolm, high of name and fame-

Foolish girls thou mayest lay,

I and they are not the same.

Why should I expire for the fire

of any eye, hairless chest, handlebar moustache,

porcelain skin; Erotes’ unrequited

kiss ! It’s not for this, that I shall die.

Thy sharp wit, thy Birth of Cool .

Thy changing face, in the Narcissus Pool !

Tousled hair > sapphirical eye : It’s not for these, that I shall die!

Malcolm, unnatural as a Swan,

a wise man did nurture me;

With apple cheek and bee-stung lip-

I Shall Not Die From Ye, she quipped!

Original Poem:

Ní bhfáigh mise bás duit

from Ábhráin Ghrádha Chúige Chonnacht [Love Songs of Connacht], ed. Douglas Hyde (Dublin, 1950), Irish version, first published 1931; English edition first published 1893.

6Cover Art by Sarah Cambell

Kissing Tips For Women and The Walkabouts

Kissing Tips For Women

I bow my head

You blow me south

You lay me down

with risqué mouth.

Some need cheese

and wine to sip

but I need your

thick upper lip.

A piece of skin

is hanging there

Slightly chapped

but I don’t care.

They’re parted now,

Red Sea-style –

Close in Mona

Lisa smile.

I bow my head

You blow me south

You lay me down

with risqué mouth.

But ladies just

remember this:

Sometimes a kiss

-is just a kiss.

The Walkabouts

In Red you said Lenin

(not John Lennon)

Better read than dead

-as you said.

In Yellow your fingers

where nicotine lingers.

And yellow afraid of the cars,

little fellow.

In Purple like Wilde

the eyes of a child-

Roses and milk,

soft, gentle and mild.

In Brown, on the ground

with no one around-

Under your coat,

my memories float.

In Green like the grass,

I knew as a lass-

And White was the night

-that you called me Cas.

Orange, our sun

was golden, naive-

Quite unaware

of what would become.

In Blue without you,

the rain on my brain-

A constant reminder

of sorrow and pain.

The colours of our walk came out as we talked.

So Grey are the days

since you went away

And Black is the colour

of my every thought.

 .6Cover Art by Sarah Cambell