to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

“He’s a poet. Basically he’s a poet. He does not trust his voice. He doesn’t trust his guitar playing. He doesn’t think he’s good at anything, except writing—and even then he has self-doubts. Have you heard that thing he wrote about Woody Guthrie? That to me is the sum of his life’s work so far. Whatever happens, that is it. That sums it up.” ~ Eric Clapton on Bob Dylan

Glory Be! The man has gone and done it!

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature is such a crowning achievement for our favorite song and dance man. Bob turned 75 this year and is still breaking boundaries as the only singer-songwriter to have ever been awarded this coveted prize.

Aside from my inner fangirl whooping for joy and turning cartwheels at the sheer awesomeness of the whole thing, what I’m most happy about is that perhaps this distinction will inspire the average person to broaden his/her view of what constitutes “poetry.”

A rare smile!

Poetry doesn’t have to be esoteric, elitist, abstract or inaccessible. It doesn’t have to live in slim volumes with boring covers. It can be the well crafted lyrics of anthemic compositions that capture the heartbeat of personal and social history through time.

After all, poetry began as an oral tradition, much of it meant to be performed with music. To those who find Dylan undeserving, I would ask that they throw off their cloaks of intellectual snobbery and abandon preconceptions about conventional “Literature.”

Bob with his son Jesse.

“Literature” is not limited to printed novels, plays, or short stories. Talk to me about more than five decades of enormous cultural influence, words of searing truth, crackling inventiveness. Talk to me about enlarging the possibilities of American popular music.

Take the average Joe in a grocery store check-out line. Chances are he’s never read any of the Nobel Prize winning novels, but he’s heard a Dylan song or two.

A song is a poem for everyman.

I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.

Eight years ago, the very first time I hosted Poetry Friday, I asked participants to post their favorite Dylan lyrics. I shared the 8th of Dylan’s “11 Outlined Epigraphs.” He was 22 when he wrote this in 1963:

Yes, I am a thief of thoughts
not, I pray, a stealer of souls
I have built an’ rebuilt
upon what is waitin’
for the sand on the beaches
carves many castles
on what has been opened
before my time
a word, a tune, a story, a line
keys in the wind t’ unlock my mind
an’ t’ grant my closet thoughts backyard air
it is not of me t’ sit an’ ponder
wonderin’ an’ wastin’ time
thinkin’ of thoughts that haven’t been thunk
thinkin’ of dreams that haven’t been dreamt
an’ new ideas that haven’t been wrote
an’ new words t’ fit into rhyme
(if it rhymes, it rhymes
if it don’t, it don’t
if it comes, it comes
if it won’t, it won’t)

no I must react an’ spit fast
with weapons of words
wrapped in tunes
that’ve rolled through the simple years
teasin’ me t’ treat them right
t’ reshape them an’ restring them
t’ protect my own world
from the mouths of all those
who’d eat it
an’ hold it back from eatin’ its own food
(influences?
hundreds thousands
perhaps millions
for all songs lead back t’ the sea
an’ at one time, there was
no singin’ tongue t’ imitate it)
t’ make new sounds out of old sounds
an’ new words out of old words
an’ not t’ worry about the new rules
for they ain’t been made yet
an’ t’ shout my singin’ mind
knowin’ that it is me an’ my kind
that will make those rules . . .
if the people of tomorrow
really need the rules of today
rally ’round all you prosecutin’ attorneys
the world is but a courtroom
yes
but I know the defendants better ‘n you
and while you’re busy prosecutin’
we’re busy whistlin’
cleanin’ up the courthouse
sweepin’ sweepin’
listenin’ listenin’
winkin’ t’ one another
careful
careful
your spot is comin’ up soon

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I’ve written about Dylan on this blog more than any other singer-songwriter. Here are three of my favorite posts:

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Time to hear from the man.

Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.

 

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Official Music Video for “Things Have Changed,” which won the Academy Award in 2001. How many famous actors can you spot?

 

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CONGRATULATIONS, BOB!

Celebrate Bob’s Nobel Prize this weekend by making his meatball recipe!

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BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNER!

The Alphabet Soup Fiddlers were tickled pink to read so many wonderful comments about Miss Muffet, or What Came After. Nothing like a little poetical theatre to generate excitement and good will.

Thank goodness we were able to avoid yet another winner-picking fiasco. Happy to report we did not have to track down Monsieur Random Integer Generator half way around the world. He was right here, scarfing up the remains of the cottage cheese pie. I will mention that after eating said pie, he was able to play three violin concertos without a slip up. This is really saying something since he couldn’t play the violin before. For an encore, he plucked some pretty good bluegrass.

With music in his heart and cottage cheese between his teeth, M. Generator picked the following winner:

*drum roll, please*

🎼

🎻

🎻

🎻

🎼

CLAUDIA of Honey From Rock!!!

Congratulations, Claudia!

Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and we’ll get the book out to you pronto!

Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway!

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poetry fridayThe beautiful and talented Irene Latham is hosting the Roundup at Live Your Poem. Stroll over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week!


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

66 thoughts on “to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

    1. While not all song lyrics are poetic, Dylan certainly challenged our assumptions that they’re simplistic, banal, or one dimensional. When he started writing songs, people actually began paying more attention to the WORDS, and in many cases, they can stand alone as meaningful, with their own music.

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    1. I’m glad he is someone actively working in my lifetime. It’s been amazing to follow his career and receive affirmation that poems, lyrics, words — are living breathing entities, a dynamic process that’s amazing to witness. He demonstrates his talent for reinvention every time he performs a song live.

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  1. Oh my Lord. This is the BEST NEWS EVER! You are the only person I know who has worshiped at the font of Dylan as long as I have. I loved this post and clicked and viewed everything on it. I didn’t recognize any famous actors in the “Things Have Changed” video, but I loved it just the same. That song was a cool-down number in Jazzercise that year. Dylan in a Jazzercise set!

    But most of all I reveled in your 2008 post of the concert you attended. Somehow I’d missed that. That theater! Perfect for enigmatic, often over-the-top Dylan. I wish I’d been there, too. As often as he’s come to D.C. I’ve never seen him live. Been reading about the Baby Boomers Coachella this weekend, where the Stones, Dylan, the Who, Neil Young, and Roger Waters played, along with your own true love, McCartney (who gave the best performance). I loved what one reporter said about Dylan, that he doesn’t compromise, that we can’t understand him, that his voice is rotten, but . . . it’s Dylan.

    What great news! And you sent it my way. Thank you so much!

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    1. Tickled pink that you first heard the news here, Candice. 🙂 Oh yes, the font of Dylan — we both know it well.

      The NYC concert was probably my favorite — I’ve seen him live only 4 times — two times in Virginia (Wolf Trap and George Mason) and once at the Verizon Center in DC. Of course the NYC concert felt like a religious experience being so close to the stage. Even President Obama commented about the time he met Dylan when presenting him with the Medal of Freedom. After his performance at the White House, Dylan politely greeted and shook Obama’s hand but didn’t stay to make small talk. Just what one would expect from someone who remains an enigma.

      I heard about the Desert Trip concerts — I think it would have been overwhelming seeing so many big names all at once. I mean, Dylan + McCartney + the Stones? It’s like the holy trinity of rock right there.

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  2. I love the history you’ve given for this moment. Coming back — as it seems I must with so many of your super rich posts — to savor later. For now — yay! (Also happy to see Candice’s excitement above!)

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    1. It feels momentous to me for sure. The negative reactions baffle me. Even if you don’t personally care for Dylan’s music, you should be able to recognize that selecting a musician to receive the Literature prize marks a notable landmark. I don’t understand those who don’t consider songwriting as “real writing.” It’s an art form too.

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  3. Love listening to Mr. Tabourine Man as I read the rest of the post, Jama. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him in person, but had a wonderful small venue moment with Pete Seeger once. We took the kids who were young, and Pete came down to sing to them, such a lovely moment. Bob deserves this for his life devoted to all the beautiful words! Thanks for the post, and the links, too!

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  4. He is a poet!! Such a passionate post, Jama. I think I know the subject of your next picture book! Have you ever thought of writing one on Dylan? I think you’d be the perfect author for it!! 🙂

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    1. I’ve never seriously considered writing a PB about Dylan. I did review Gary Golio’s book a few years ago, “When Bob Met Woody.” It feels overwhelming because there is so much already written about him, and volumes upon volumes of reference material to wade through, and then of course, finding that perfect slant to serve as a focus. Same goes for the Beatles. Love them too, but as a subject I feel I can’t do them justice.

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    1. Is it any wonder so many avoid poetry like the plague? Emotional resonance is my #1 criteria when it comes to poems. I get turned off by poets who like to show off their technical skills and seem to be writing to themselves. We’ve all read many poems and scratched our heads, thinking, “I don’t get it.” Very frustrating.

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  5. Yaaaaaaah for Dylan! It’s about time!

    I love this post and have been rereading your post posts about him. Celebrating with you, Jama. (And yes, Kevin would have been celebrating with us, too.)

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    1. Yay for Dylan!! What an amazing moment in Nobel history! Glad you’re celebrating with me, Barb. I think Kevin is up there celebrating with us too.

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  6. hooray for Bob and hooray for you, Jama, for being such an enthusiastic fan–love the post! And all else I have to say is AMEN, SISTER!

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  7. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I first heard the news. Like you and many, I feel his cultural impact cannot be overstated, I just wasn’t sure if this was the “right” award to bestow on him. I’ve come around, though, not least because of passionate supporters like you, Jama, who are making such a strong case for it. I still think it was a shame though, that the one concert where I saw him (double billed with the Grateful Dead), he basically gave the audience the finger (figuratively, not literally) and walked off the stage after maybe 20 minutes max. Tough crowd and/or not a good day, I guess.

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    1. Sorry to hear about the disappointing Dylan concert. Reminds me of the time Chuck Berry gave a 20 minute concert in Hawaii. We were shocked when he walked off the stage after so short a time. An hour or so later, we saw him at the airport. Seems the concert was scheduled during a brief stopover to someplace else. 😦

      I suppose the controversy about Dylan’s Nobel is to be expected. He’s counter culture after all, fits into his own category, and defies convention. Interesting piece in the Washington Post yesterday that includes some reactions from prominent poets:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/does-a-musician-have-any-right-to-win-the-nobel-prize-in-literature/2016/10/13/34710658-915f-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-arts%3Ahomepage%2Fcard

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  8. Jama, I love what a fan-girl you are for Bob! I am sharing this post with my song, who is a poet/songwriter… one thing I love about poetry is that it has something for everyone. Really. It is THAT BIG. Congratulations to Bob (and to you – I can just see your adoring face at that concert!!). xo

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    1. Yours is a common reaction. The thing is, many of Bob’s songs have been covered by other artists. You probably like some of those songs without realizing who wrote them. And there are many of Bob’s lyrics which can stand alone, without musical accompaniment.

      Still, here’s one of my favorite of Bob’s vocals — far from the raspy voice most people associate with him:

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  9. You present a very convincing post, Jama. Your knowledge and passionate fandom shines though – though I am wondering how CF feels about this divided loyalty. ‘Auntie’ Kat 🙂

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    1. LOL. Sshhhhh! Mustn’t upset CF. But I’m sure he’s a fan too, and probably just as happy with the news. In his early days, CF played the guitar in a band. 🙂

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  10. How often has the choice of a Nobel Prize winner stirred up so much talk about the nature of literature, poetry, song? For that alone, I’m delighted! Thanks for your rich post of all things Dylan!

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    1. Precisely! It’s a fascinating discussion with good points on either side. Literature is a living breathing thing and constantly evolving — Dylan, as always, forces us to think outside the box.

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  11. Great post! I admit, the news first took me by surprise, but after a minute, it seemed like a reasonable choice. I was arrested by the photo of Dylan and his son. Wow, what a flashback! Schaefer beer cans–the type you needed a “church key” to open, the Marlboro cigarettes. A toddler and his bottle AND a cat on the same table. Could you imagine a scene like that today? The times certainly have been a-changin’.

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    1. I love seeing pics of Dylan with his children. Reminds us that iconic figures are human just like the rest of us. Can you imagine the lullabies he might have sung? 🙂 I’ve seen more than one pic of him with cats — a good sign, right?

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  12. Jama, great, Dylanfull post, and I remember that Poetry Friday eight years ago! Dylan was inspiring us all that day (and always.) Love this!

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      1. Well, I was partly right – you did work that coffee title in your clever poem. Thanks for looking your post up — hard to believe it’s been 8 years!

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  13. You too have a gift for words Jama, and I especially agreed with “Poetry doesn’t have to be esoteric, elitist, abstract or inaccessible” so true. I have his thick book of lyrics, which only covers 1962 -1985, would be way thicker now, and better than any poetry book I know. We’re all celebrating here!

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