Zimmerman, the Poet?
by Joni Abilene
I found out Dylan might be up for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but there’s controversy because some folks feel his work shouldn’t be thrown into the same category as what they consider real poetry. One can’t altogether disagree—Dylan is a songwriter. Yet, there’s no ‘Yeah, yeah, yeahs’ or ‘Baby, baby,’ or as Robert Plant so delicately screeched, ‘AHHHHHHHAAAA!’ in the Immigrant Song. None of that (well, some of that). Dylan’s lyrics are standalone. They’re quotable; they’re readable. They relate to the human experience. They do not require music, it’s just that we have been lucky enough to have him provide that alongside the words, and very proficiently I might add.
Here’s a man who sat with Ginsberg, and whose name derives from Dylan Thomas, whose work echoes that of T.S. Eliot. He writes for the world, he writes for himself. Sometimes he hides in the words, sometimes he proselytizes, and then hides again. But one thing he’s never done is merely fit words to music. That, at least, is obvious.
I mean, listen to his voice.
Dylan is not around because he is a great singer. He is around because he is a great writer.
In Abandoned Love he writes: My patron saint is fighting with a ghost; he’s always off somewhere when I need him most; the Spanish moon is rising on the hill, but my heart is a tellin’ me I love you still.
In Things Have Changed he writes: Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes; I’m looking up into the sapphire tinted skies; I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train . . .
And in the recent Duquesne Whistle: Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing, blowing through another no good town; the lights of my native land are glowing, I wonder if they’ll know me next time around; I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing—that old oak tree, the one we used to climb . . .
She aches just like a woman . . .
Come gather round people whenever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown . . .
Early one morning the sun was shining, I was laying in bed, wondering if she’d changed it all, if her hair was still red . . .
They just keep coming—words for humans, words for life.
In one article it was stated that Dylan has received enough honors in his life to be satisfied, and that he is ‘too old’ and ‘too cranky’ to sit through another ceremony. I beg to differ. I really do. For those of us whose lives have been transformed, who can state without much difficulty the exact moment and place we were when Dylan’s words crept into our hearts and transformed us forever, it is very important that he receives this recognition. It means something to us. So, cranky or not, he should sit through another ceremony and receive another one of those pesky little metal thingies. Because, yes, it is that important. And yes, he does deserve it.