When I was packing in Los Angeles to come here, I had a sense of unease because I’ve always felt some ambiguity about an award for poetry. Poetry comes from a place that no one commands and no one conquers, so I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.
I was compelled in the midst of that ordeal of packing to go and open my guitar. I have a Conde guitar, which was made in Spain in the great workshop at No. 7 Gravina Street. A beautiful instrument that I acquired over 40 years ago. I took it out of the case, I lifted it, and it seemed to be filled with helium. It was so light. I brought it to my face and I put my face close to the beautifully designed rosette, and I inhaled the fragrance of the living wood.
You know that wood never dies.
I inhaled the fragrance of cedar as fresh as the first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me, you are an old man and you have not said thank you, you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose. And so I come here tonight, to thank the soil and the soul of this people that have given me so much.
– Leonard Cohen, speaking at the Príncipe of Asturias Awards Ceremony at the Campoamor Theatre in Oviedo, October 21, 2011.
To hear his entire speech:
To learn more about the Conde family of luthiers: