Hallelujah for the Poets

Photo by  Ales Krivec

Photo by Ales Krivec

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that persisted even in your sleep? It happened to me the other day but I didn't really mind. It's a song that touches my soul. 

If I were asked, "Who are your favorite poets?"  What would I say?

"Um...Shel Silverstein?" My kids and I loved to read Where the sidewalk ends. I'd walk away relieved that I had come up with an answer. I don't really know too many poets - or do I?

The song that was stuck in my head was mentioned by a friend. We were having a conversation about music and creativity. Once mentioned, I couldn't get to youtube fast enough. 

It wasn't hard to find my favorite version - Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I hit repeat more times than I would like to admit. 

I wanted to know more about the song. 

I found out that Leonard spent five years struggling with it, writing an estimated 80 different verses. I can't imagine what it took for him to whittle it down to just a few. 

It's said, that when it was presented to the president of CBS records, he called it a disaster. Unbelievable. 

There are at least 300 versions of the song recorded. It's been used in television and movie soundtracks (Shrek comes to mind). That song touched me the very first time I heard it, and it still moves me to tears.

For me, the song captures, in all it's beautiful and painful notes, the complicated, imperfect path of pursuing human love. From physical attraction, to lust, adultery, desire to control, disappointment, insecurity, the agony of heartbreak...Why would anyone willingly travel that road?

It's that one fleeting moment, captured so beautifully in the song, when the ecstasy can be so profound, as if in union with the divine. That will bring us back time and time again. 

Cohen's beloved song is over 30 years old and it still has the power to inspire. It's a song that has endured. 

If asked again, "Who are your favorite poets?" I'd have a better answer.

"Shel Silverstein, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, and so many more."

Hallelujah to the poets who walk among us, many disguised as songwriters.