50 Years Too Late, the New York Times Wonders if Bob Dylan is a Poet

The headline in today’s New York Times: “Bob Dylan: Musician or poet?”

I’m always happy to see Dylan written about in the New York Times. They’re no johnny-come-lately as supporters of Bob Dylan.

It was their music critic Robert Shelton who gave Dylan his first serious, high-profile review, following a performance at Gerdes Folk City in the Village, September 26, 1961.

Still, here at the end of 2013, do we really have to ask? Is Bob Dylan a poet? Would the New York Times run an essay today titled “Was Einstein a genius? Well maybe, possibly.

I guess the question bothers me because it seemed so obvious from the start. I always thought Dylan was a poet. And a rock star. And a singer. And a musician. And he was damn funny too.

I first heard Bob Dylan on the radio singing “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965 and it knocked me sideways, it was listening to one of Picasso’s cubist masterpieces, sent me right into some other world. I was 12 years old. When I bought Highway 61 Revisited, once I got past looking at the amazing cover photo, there was a lengthy piece of writing by Dylan that was clearly (to me) a poem.

Soon enough, by the time I was 13, I was reading Ferlinghetti’s “A Coney Island of the Mind” and e. e. cummings’ “a selection of poems” and Ginsberg’s “Howl.” If “Howl” was a poem, why not “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” or “Bob Dylan’s Dream” or “Desolation Row”?

We really don’t need the Times asking if Dylan is a poet 50 years too late.

Still, both essays in today’s Times — by Francine Prose and Dana Stevens — are worth reading (and are well written), but not because you need anyone to tell you whether or not Bob Dylan is a poet. You don’t need a weatherman, To know which way the wind blows.

Check the essays out here.

Allen Ginsberg on Dylan as poet:

John Corigliano – “Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan”:

Greil Marcus talks with composers John Corigliano and Howard Fishman at the CUNY Graduate Center about their respective projects based around the works of Bob Dylan. September 17, 2009:

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One thought on “50 Years Too Late, the New York Times Wonders if Bob Dylan is a Poet

  1. What’s comical about this discussion is that it might have been written in 1975, when it was already a decade dead. No wonder Dylan so often appears cranky. This is the kind of thing that makes artists move to New Hampshire where everyone is cranky. It would have been a better read if either writer had defended Dylan’s demented Christmas album. Perhaps in another forty years, when no one alive knows what the lucky writers are aruging about?

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