Archive for the ‘poetry’ category

Leonard Cohen: a world of influences

January 5, 2010

As a follow-up to our last blog post, and in light of the recent “music influences” additions to the Infloox site, I thought I’d look into the influences of Leonard Cohen.

Since starting out as a poet in Montreal in the 50s, Cohen has lead a tumultous yet very interesting life.  He lived through one of the strongest musical periods that we’ve ever known, so it is no wonder that he was influenced by and in turn has influenced so many people.  His earliest works were poetry and prose, and here he found inspiration in the works of W. B. Yeats, Lord Byron and Henry Miller, to name a few. While some may assume that only musicians influence musicians, and likewise for authors of fiction, we can see here that it is not so. These literary  influences stayed with Cohen even later on, showing a strong impact on the unique song lyrics that he has come to be so well known for.

During the 60s and 70s, when Cohen started to make his mark as a singer-songwriter, he found himself spending more time soaking up inspiration from the other musicians and icons around him. Andy Warhol’s Factory Crowd became a new hang-out, and Warhol wondered once that the German singer/model, Nico, likely had a resounding impact on the music Cohen later went on to write. At the same time, he also had strong roots in the traditional European folk music that his ancestors had grown up with.

Around the same time, another songwriter was making waves: one Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known now as Bob Dylan. Dylan and Cohen had met each other and identifying with each other as they both came from strong Jewish backgrounds, found that over time they both started to influence each others’ work. So much so, that Dylan later covered a number of Cohen’s songs as a tribute to him.

Fast-forward to today and we can see that this massive mix of influences has definitely served Cohen well. With several awards and Hall of Fame inductions under his belt, he has certainly done well for himself. Perhaps we can all learn from this that influences do not necessarily have to come from just one source or one genre. Too often as writers, we get trapped in browsing through only the genre we’re writing. Head over to Infloox and lose yourself for a while by finding out where some of your favourite authors culled their inspiration from!

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Inside the mind of Herta Muller, 2009 Nobel Prize winner

October 8, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature has been announced and the winner is… Herta Müller!

Wait, who? It’s a question that most readers across the English-speaking world have been asking today, accompanied by much head-scratching. The facts are that Müller is a 56-year-old Romanian-born German author, whose award-winning writing focuses on the hardships in living under the harsh dictatorship of Romanian leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of her, keep in mind that while most of her numerous works have been published in German, only a mere five have ever been translated to English.

Müller spent over 30 years living in Romania. During her university years, she studied Romanian and German literature, and was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a literary society that fought for freedom of speech. While German is her first language, Muller has also publicly stated that she finds Romanian to be a lot more poetic and poignant, and has derived much influence from its folklore and folk music.

In her working years, Müller had several scary run-ins with the Securitate, the secret police group of Communist Romania – she was threatened, slandered, captured, interrogated, critised by Romanian press and eventually banned from publishing in her own country. Later, she made the move to Germany with her husband, Richard Wagner (also a writer), where she was allowed to publish without fearing censorship. Of her novels, she describes them as “autofiction”, meaning that while the facts are based on her real life and real experiences, the stories are crafted as fiction.

Today, October 8 2009, it was officially announced that Herta Müller has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, making her the 12th woman in 108 years to win this prize. The Swedish Academy commended her for her bravery and passion in relating the hardships suffered by an entire nation, saying that “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose,  [she] depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”. The awarded prize is a whopping $1.4 million.

Learn more about Muller and her influences at Infloox.

Today in Literature – Aug 4

August 4, 2009

Today is a big day for literature history!

The much-celebrated English romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born, in 1792. Later in life, Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, (incidentally covered in our blog a few posts ago!), also known as the famed author, Mary Shelley. At the height of his career, Percy Shelley churned out a number of major poems, plays and even Gothic novels. He had such a massive impact upon the literary world that years later, even Ghandi proved this influence when he chose to read from Shelley’s political poem “The Masque of Anarchy” at demonstrations.  Head over to infloox for a more in-depth look.

Fast forward to 1944: Also on August 4th, on a much more sobering note, 15-year-old Anne Frank was captured by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp. However, her precious diaries became her legacy, giving the entire world an intimately personal peek into life as a Jew during the war.  Upon its publication by her father in 1947, The Diary of Anne Frank became an instant bestseller.