Leonard Cohen, “God is Alive”

  1. A number of ideas move through this poem, changing shape and repeating themselves and blending one into the other. What effect is produced (a) by the repetitions (b) by the frequent reversal of word order?
  2. The sentences in the poem are all short and the rhythm is abrupt and jerky, suggesting a collection of isolated thoughts rather than a logical development of a central theme. What does this device contribute to Cohen’s purpose?
  3. Notice the contrasting elements that appear and reappear in the poem: life and death; strength and weakness; sickness and healing. Is there any contrasting idea for God? For Magic?
  4. Identify as many of the biblical references as you can. What evidence of Cohen’s Jewish heritage can you find?
  5. The final sentence of the poem is noticeably longer than the other sentences. The poem begins and ends with the word “God.” Can you explain the purpose of these two devices?
  6. What does Cohen mean when he says that “mind itself is Magic coursing through the flesh, and flesh itself is Magic dancing on a clock, and time itself the Magic Length of God.” What does he mean by Magic? Why does he capitalize it?
  7. After reading the two poems by Cohen that are included in this unit, would you say that he is an individualist or a conformist? Traditional or innovative? Strong or weak?