Poems or Riddles? – By @thomas_ludo

Ludo Thomas

By Ludo Thomas


Poems or Riddles?


I’ve taken a bit of a U-turn. You see I started out on the hunt for ‘Pereira Maintains’, a novel recommended by Mr Brignull, but while I was running errands – collecting the Christmas turkey from Hay-on-Wye, I decided to poke my head into one of my favourite places and have a look around. Richard Booth’s Bookshop resembles something out of Harry Potter and whenever I come to Hay I always go in and see if I can add to my collection of Wilbur Smith books.

Sadly though, no luck. A tad glum and with ten minutes still to wait on the turkey I decided to head upstairs to see if anything caught my eye, and whilst perusing the shelves I came across a small book with the sketch of a colourful bird on the front. It’s called ‘book of longing’ and for only £10 the collection of Leonard Cohen poems and illustrations was mine.


Now, not until just after his death I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know much about Leonard Cohen. I recognised his songs ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘So Long Marianne’ but I had no idea who was behind them, yes, before you ask, I did feel guilty. But in truth it wasn’t until I saw Pete’s reaction to Cohen’s passing that I began to look into his career and realise that he was not only one of the most influential writers of his generation but also the genius behind so many songs that I knew and liked. So in future if I hear a song I like, or recongise a piece of music in a film and I don’t know the artist, I’m going to make sure I find out who that person is, you never know who you’ll stumble across.


So I start reading this book and I’m desperately trying to like it, I mean, I’m really trying, but I found it rather difficult. Now, I couldn’t blame the author as I didn’t want World War 3 to erupt, so I struggled on trying to make sense of the poems. Poems, that’s it, that’s the problem. You see I don’t remember having ever sat down to read a book of poems, so this was why it wasn’t working at first. It was completely alien because unlike the novels I’m used to I found it difficult to … cue reading lingo, ‘really get into it’. Because you can follow a story that has character development and plot, where as with poems there seems to be no story structure what so ever. Each poem was a small story in itself, well more like a riddle, but as soon as I understood this I couldn’t put the book down. The poems jumped around, each a cocktail of beautiful jibberish, occasionally one made some sense others nonsesence, but they were fantastic. Reading this book became a pleasurable mental workout as I tried to understand what Cohen meant within each story. Another refreshing encounter was the ability to open up the book to whatever page and begin reading, I didn’t have to follow the normal pattern start to finish, I could skip pages, and pick out only the titles and versus that I liked the look of.


I don’t know why I liked them, I suppose poems are a bit like art, it’s all subjective, I mean I think the Mona Lisa is terribly ugly, and I found out yesterday it’s worth just shy of £1 billion, baffling I know, but I did choose three poems to share from my new book, partly because I want to show you just how nonsensical some are but also because I enjoyed them.


A Limited Degree

As soon as I understood

(even to a limited degree)

that this is G-d’s world

I began to lose weight


At this very moment

I am wearing

my hockey uniform

from the Sixth Grade


(I mean what on earth does that mean?)


I Wrote For Love – 1975

I wrote for love.

Then I wrote for money.

With someone like me

it’s the same thing.


(Money = Love and visa versa)


True Self

True Self, True Self

has no will –

It’s free from “Kill”

or “Do not kill”

but while I am

a novice still

I do embrace

with all my will

the First Commitment

“Do not Kill”


(I like this one, and I don’t know why)


I will be picking up more poem books in the future.


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