The Flame: Poems and Selections from Notebooks. by Leonard Cohen The Flame is a collection of about two hundred poems and fragments of poems that Leonard Cohen didn't publish in his life time. There is a good reason for that as they are a pretty mediocre lot. From youth through old age, Cohen's persona never changed greatly. He appeared an inward-looking, lachrymose man, a warrior to love ultimately made weary by an endless string of romances that never managed to work out. The affairs that he writes about in this collection increasingly seem like battlegrounds, tests of will each encompassing their own inevitable demise. Picturing a happy Leonard Cohen is like picturing a happy Miles Davis--just too hard to imagine and too in conflict with their self-image. This last collection of poems does little more than freeze this persona into a permanent memorial. At least in his early years, the women whom Cohen wrote about had definable personalities and quirks, elements that made them attractive and particular--think Suzanne, think Marrianne, think sisters of mercy, think Chelsea Hotel, and so on. There are references to women galore in this collection, but they all sound the same--impersonal, interchangeable beings notable only for leaving a mark or a regret on Leonard's aching heart. Even more than usual, the focus is on the "I" in these poems--they virtually all scream me, me, me; in fact it is almost impossible to find a poem in which the first person pronoun isn't used to the point of distraction. At his best, Cohen is a superb wordsmith, so there are a few stanzas here that remain memorable and reflect his way with words. However, most of these poems are dull and repetitive. That they are accompanied with dozens of Cohen's pencil drawn self-portraits only emphasizes the degree of total self-absorption that is on display here. Long time Cohen fans may deem this a necessary addition to his work, the rest of can just play his first several albums.