Arts

Watch an animated Leonard Cohen read a surreal poem and recount the bizarre origins of ‘Sisters of Mercy’

In December 1971, the late Leonard Cohen sat down with Kathleen Kendel from New York City radio station WBAI to chat about his creative process, tell tales about moonlight, why he enjoys it when people cover his songs, and to recite one of his early poems Two Went To Sleep.

Leonard Cohen

Watch an animated Leonard Cohen read his surreal poem, Two Went To Sleep, and recount the bizarre origins of his folk classic Sisters of Mercy.

In the past, these kinds of radio interviews were ephemeral – consigned to be lost in archives and never listened to again.This particular conversation ended up in the Pacifica Radio Archives, where it lay dormant for many years until it was rescued by the folks at Blank on Blank.

We’ve covered some of Blank on Blank’s video before. Basically they find archival nuggets like this – old interviews with musicians, artists, writers, and actors, and resurrect them through animation. They’re incredible and you should definitely check out their site.

This one in particular is amazing, with Cohen reading Two Went to Sleep from his 1956 debut as a poet, Let Us Compare Mythologies, and recounting the wild story of a cold night with two women in Edmonton, Canada, and how moonlight drew from him his song, Sisters of Mercy, fully formed.

Check it out, and be sure to read Two Went to Sleep below, it’s magic stuff.

Two Went to Sleep:

Two went to sleep almost every night. One dreamed of mud. One dreamed of Asia. Visiting the Zeppelin. Visiting Nijinsky. Two went to sleep. One dreamed of ribs. One dreamed of senators. Two went to sleep. Two travelers. The long marriage in the dark. The sleep was old. The travelers were old. One dreamed of oranges. One dreamed of Carthage. Two friends asleep. Years locked in travel. Good night my darling, as the dreams wave goodbye.

One traveled lightly. One walked through water. Visiting a chess game. Visiting a booth. Always returning to wait out the day. One carried matches. One climbed the beehive. One sold an earphone. One shot a German. Two went to sleep. Every sleep went together. Wandering away from an operating table.

One dreamed of grass. One dreamed of spokes. One bargained nicely. One was a snowman. One counted medicine. One tasted pencils. One was a child. One was a traitor. Visiting heavy industry. Visiting the family.

Two went to sleep. None could foretell. One went with baskets. One took a ledger. One night happy, one night in terror. Love could not bind them. Fear could not either. They went unconnected. They never knew where. Always returning to wait out the day. Parting with kissing. Parting with yawns. Visiting death ‘til they wore out their welcome. Visiting death ’til the right disguise worked.

[via Blank on Blank / Brain Pickings]