A likely story. If Cohen’s mind is like the DMV, it’s not like any DMV I’ve ever been to.
Cohen’s interview is a fascinating reflection on creativity and work:
Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.
That reminds me of something Robert Frost said about writing poetry:
You know, you know that, when I begin a poem I don’t know–I don’t want a poem that I can tell was written towards a good ending–one sentence, you know. That’s trickery. You’ve got to be the happy discoverer of your ends.
…I’ve often said that another definition of poetry is dawn–that it’s something dawning on you while you’re writing it. It comes off if it really dawns when the light comes at the end. And the feeling of dawn–the freshness of dawn–that you didn’t think this all out and write in prose first and than translate it into verse.
Note the metaphor of “light” that both poets use.
I’ve written a lot of poetry in my life, although “a lot” is relative. I’m certainly not up there in productivity with either Frost or Cohen. I’ve got maybe seventy or so poems that I wouldn’t be totally ashamed to own up to. And I have to say that almost all of them took the form both poets are describing: you write it and see whether it shines, and although you have some spark that starts the process you have no idea where the poem will end. The best ones end in pleasant surprise.