April 05, 2009

Cohen Kōan

The first bit of inspiration for my L. Cohen print is his As the Mist Leaves No Scar:
As the mist leaves no scar
On the dark green hill,
So my body leaves no scar
On you, nor ever will.

When wind and hawk encounter,
What remains to keep?
So you and I encounter,
Then turn, then fall to sleep.

As many nights endure
Without a moon or star,
So will we endure
When one is gone and far.

It was probably one of the first of his poems I read, still in high school, and there's too many reasons why I like it; listing them all would take an essay. But the meaning I take from it changes as I get older. These days, I see the comment on the impermanence of experience from a more Zen point of view: experiences come and go, we are touched and we move on, but we transcend onto other things, in the natural ebb and flow of life.

As for the print, the poem fits the nature of the image I'm striving for: Cohen's face, in the center and seemingly either moving into focus, or receding out of it, surrounded by suggested references to some of his other works.

The big question, of course, is can I pull it off? And will it end up looking like Leonard Cohen or just some unknown guy? Nervously I anticipate.

I printed the second layer today. Here's my inked block.

And the resulting image:

One thing I realized, while looking for ideas for the print and reading more of Cohen's poems in succession than I've ever done before, is how cryptic some of the work is. The poems are almost kōan-like; they work on a level beyond the mental, they hint at meaning but never fully give the answer and, just when you think you know what the message is, it changes. It's definitely one of the things I like about the poetry so much: it takes me on tangents beyond the ordinary.

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