I spent a couple of hours on the train this afternoon and it gave me time to catch up with what the newspapers are saying about Jade Goody. The kindness is evident in most of what I read – and the recognition that she wasn’t able to be anything other than ‘in your face’. You could never accuse her of being a hypocrite.

leonard-cohenThis reminded me of some lines in a Leonard Cohen poem from 1996 called Better. He writes:

better than poetry

is my poetry

which refers

to everything

that is beautiful and

dignified, but is

neither of these itself


There are people who shine a (not always welcome) light on the world and place question marks about what we think is ‘normal’. This is the task of the poet. But it is also what I think has happened and is happening through the Jade Goody phenomenon: her transparent imperfection and other people’s treatment of her exposes the snobbery and prejudice we would rather not admit to. Stephen Fry on Twitter called her something like ‘Princess Diana from the wrong side of the tracks’ and he was right: much of the judgment piled on her during her notoriety phases appears to have been rooted in a sneering looking down the nose at someone ‘not like us’.


Cohen recognises that most of us are imperfect at how we express our lives as well as our art, but it is still the same beauty to which we point.


I just wonder what the atheist commentators actually mean when they say ‘Jade is at peace’. Genuine question.