Yesterday, amid the circus that was Kanye West’s visit to meet Donald Trump in the Oval Office, a new poem by Leonard Cohen re-surfaced, shared on social media by Americana star Amanda Shires, that went viral and delighted his many detractors. Titled, “Kanye West Is Not Picasso,” Cohen originally penned the poem back in 2015 and its included as part of a new collection of his writing called The Flame.
For as poignant and pointed as “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” looks on the page, it’s when you hear it read aloud that it’s truest impact is felt. Enter Michael Shannon, an imposing actor as any on the screen, who decided to lend the full weight of his gruff, bass-heavy voice for a truly chilling read of the poem.
There’s definitely a caustic edge to Shannon’s recitation, especially when he comes to the line, “I am the Kanye West of Kanye West / The Kanye West / Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture / From one boutique to another.” As it turns out, he’s not the only prominent figure to read some of Cohen’s poetry for The Flame. The audiobook version of that release also features the likes of Margaret Atwood, Maggie Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Will Patton bringing the legendary Canadian singer-songwriters words to life.
The Flame is out now and available for purchase here. You can listen to Michael Shannon’s reading of Leonard Cohen’s poem “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” in the Soundcloud player above.