By Jodie Shull
Last night, after a long day of seeing not a scrap of news, I tumbled into bed to catch up. I started to nod off to the usual presidential campaign horrors when the script along the bottom of the TV screen caught my eye. Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I bolted up, “What the bleep??”
It’s not that I wasn’t thrilled. I was stunned that the blue-eyed boy, vagabond, troubadour, ragamuffin poet from the Rust Belt, beloved voice of my youth had been so recognized. The Nobel Prize for Literature is generally given to someone I have never heard of, often because their works have not been readily available in English, my only lingo. Bob Dylan?
I imagine there will be quite a stir in the world literature realm. Dylan is a songwriter. I don’t believe he writes sonnets. Strange enough, I had just read David Remnick’s wonderful profile in The New Yorker about Leonard Cohen in which Bob Dylan is a featured speaker. Dylan and Cohen are colleagues, dueling bards, who love one another’s work as they ponder the mysterious sources of their creativity.
There will be a flood of pondering going on as this award is discussed and dissected by the cultural media in the coming days and weeks. I love it! Here’s what NPR says, “The prolific musician is the first Nobel winner to have forged a career primarily as a singer-songwriter….Dylan earned the prize ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,’ according to the citation by the Swedish Academy….” What fun it is going to be to read all of this critique about someone so close to home whose work I am familiar with.
The Swedish Academy has just blown the doors off the Tower of Song. Some may be dismayed that the unwashed phenomenon has been tapped for this award. To all poets who have labored on the traditional path: let not your hearts be troubled. This could be a fabulous boon to the fortunes of poets everywhere, attracting interest, discussion, and hope to the art. Will Dylan sing his acceptance speech?