Leonard Cohen has been primarily recognized for his music rather than his poetry, although that distinction is misleading. The lyrics to most of his songs can be read as poems, and his poems often have a musical quality. In 1968, Cohen won the Canadian Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry for Selected Poems, 1956-1968, but he refused the honor, saying that the very nature of his work would have been sullied had he accepted the honor.
Canada has found other ways to honor Cohen. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1991 and won JUNO Awards in 1993 for Male Vocalist of the Year and Best Video and in 1994 for Songwriter of the Year. In 1993, he also received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. In 2003, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, and in 2006 was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2009.
In the United States, Cohen was a featured artist on Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, which won a Grammy Award for album of the year in 2007. In 2008, Cohen was inducted into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Recording Academy awarded Cohen with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Devlin, Jim. In Every Style of Passion: The Works of Leonard Cohen. London: Omnibus, 1996. A biography and critical guide.
Hutcheon, Linda. Leonard Cohen and His Works. Toronto: ECW Press, 1992. Gives a brief biography, an analysis of artistic influences, an assessment of his work, an overview of critical response, and a bibliography of both primary and secondary sources.
Nadel, Ira B. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen. New York: Pantheon, 1996. A biography that pays more attention to Cohen’s literary work than most music-based studies.
Rasky, Harry. The Song of Leonard Cohen: Portrait of a Poet, a Friend, and a Film. New York: Mosaic Press, 2001. A memoir of making a documentary film on Cohen’s 1979 tour.
Scobie, Stephen, ed. Intricate Preparations: Writing Leonard Cohen. Toronto: ECW Press, 2000. A collection of articles on Cohen’s poetry.
Sheppard, David. Leonard Cohen. New York: Thunder Mouth Press, 2000. A short biography that gives more weight to Cohen’s musical career, but does offer an assessment of his poetry as well.
Siemerling, Winfried. Discoveries of the Other: Alterity in the Works of Leonard Cohen, Herbert Aquin, Michael Ondaatje, and Nicole Borssard. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Considers Cohen as a novelist.