There is a cautionary lesson to be picked up from many of the poems and prose-poems in this collection--one that Shelley, say, never had to worry his short-lived head over. To wit: lyric poets should think twice before signing recording contracts. ""I could not trade you for a nightingale. I could not trade you for a hammered golden bird. You took away my music. You set me here with blunted tongue to listen only. Someone is playing a grand piano with two hands. Someone is whispering to her shepherd. I never got to wear my high leather boots."" Cohen, though, doesn't want it thought that he only writes witless lyrics, so he has an arch facing-page commentary to these lines: ""I think this qualifies as great religious poetry and also earns itself a place in the annals of complaint."" Elsewhere he's a little harder on himself, but even there you see that the auto-criticism is basically a trick, something to fool you into believing an intelligence is at work. It isn't, it never has been in Cohen's work, even the pre-pop stuff; he's always been basically a phrase-maker and rhythm-forger. Once he did however have a true sense for pathos--it cuts through in a few of the more anecdotal prose pieces about marriage here, like ""The Unclean Start""--but it's been all too unfortunately gummed into extinction.