Cohenists unite


Get ready for the ultimate Leonard love-in at McGill University this weekend. From May 12 to 14, up to 200 fans of the Montreal-born singer, poet and author will be gathering at the University’s Arts Building (853 Sherbrooke Street West) to gab and gush about McGill’s famous and enigmatic graduate (BA 1955) at Montreal 2000: The Leonard Cohen Event.

While Cohen’s manager, Kelley Lynch, confirms the Great Gray One will not be present at the conference due to "prior engagements," she’ll be flying in from Los Angeles to represent him. She’ll also be bringing along memorabilia and will offer fans a premiere of three new Cohen songs -- "A Thousand Kisses Deep," "Secret Life" and "Here It Is" -- to be featured on a future album.

"Since this conference is in Leonard’s home town, I think it’s important that I pop up," she says. "Leonard is greatly appreciative that people interested in his work are gathering together."

The Cohen lovefest, organized by North American fans, will include panel discussions, a tribute concert by The Damn Personals, and screenings of films including Leonard, Light My Cigarette. Those wondering if Cohen can’t attend because he’s still holed up in a California Buddhist temple need not worry. Cohen ended that spiritual chemin recently after segregating himself from society for five years as a mountaintop monk.

This will be the first Canadian tribute of its kind to the 65-year-old Cohen. So far, Cohenists from France to Finland have registered for the Montreal conference. McGill’s link to the event, other than providing space at Cohen’s alma mater, is a talk by associate English professor Brian Trehearne. He is participating in a panel discussion on Cohen, having taught a course on the multifaceted artist for several years at McGill. "Cohen was one of the great liberators of Canadian literature," Trehearne says. "Although he may have offended quite a few people along the way, he’s one of the few authors who pushed the envelope to take literature to new levels."

Conference chair Bill Van Dyk says organizing the event was a way to allow fans to admire all things Cohen. "We’ll do everything from look at the impact he’s had on society," he says, "to celebrating the works of one of the greatest singers, songwriters and poets of our time."

Registration for the Leonard Cohen Event is $100.