Bob Dylan breaks boundaries of literature

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Bob Dylan breaks boundaries of literature
American singer Bob Dylan has been hailed as "a great poet in the English-speaking tradition" following his surprise win of the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Zuma Press/TNS)
American singer Bob Dylan has been hailed as “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” following his surprise win of the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Zuma Press/TNS)

Staff Writer

Bob Dylan has made history by receiving the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, breaking stereotypes about what qualifies as literature. Since the Nobel Prize for Literature was created, Bob Dylan has been the first singer/songwriter to win the award. This created a great deal of controversy on the matter of whether he is entitled to such an honor, but it’s clear that his meaningful lyrics bring depth to his songs in the same way that a work of prose would. He has created an entirely new appreciation for song lyrics, proving that he his worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bob Dylan often uses literary allusions in his music, and even cited poetry in his lyrics, referring to renowned poets such as Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and Ezra Pound. It’s profound how much literature and poetry is hidden in his lyrics. Each of Bob Dylan’s songs is sprinkled with bits of literature, showing off his capabilities as not only an artist but also as a literary mastermind. The first verse of the song “Desolation Row,” for instance, is filled with hidden literary poetry:

Cinderella, she seems so easy,

“It takes one to know one,” she smiles.

And puts her hands in her back pockets Bette Davis style.

And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning.

“You belong to me I believe”

And someone says. “You’re in the wrong place, my friend, you’d better leave”

And the only sound that’s left after the ambulance go.

Is Cinderella sweeping up on Desolation Row.

The eleven minute song was written in lengthy couplets. The lyrics bring together old and modern English literature, creating a masterpiece that transcends literary eras; the song is  even sometimes referred to as contemporary poetry. Bob Dylan  adds in details of additional literature and references to poetry, proving that he is a deserving winner of the Nobel Prize.

Bob Dylan has published poetry and prose as well, granting him the title of an author. Some of his works were featured in “Tarantula”, his 1971 collection, and “Chronicles: Volume One”, a memoir published in 2004. What’s even more impressive is that according to the New York Times, he has collected lyrics of his songs from 1961 to 2012, which were printed and published by Simon & Schuster. Bob Dylan’s ability to write poetry clearly shows off his capabilities. Claims that Dylan does not merit the prize are invalid because he has clearly created literature, even if they are in the form of lyrics rather than a novel.The Oxford Book of American Poetry included his song “Desolation Row” in its 2006 edition, which further adds to his accomplishments as a literary songwriter and stylist. The presence of “Desolation Row” in such a prestigious book shows how much of an influence his lyrics have on the literary world and how his profound ability to write so well has brought him his success.

According to the New York Times, the Swedish Academy has justified awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Dylan by stating, “Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature.”  The academy understands that Dylan has had as much influence on the literary world as he has had on the music industry. He has reached a level in which his songs are featured in poetry books, showing off their artful literary elements. Although some may not fully acknowledge all his work and may speak of his incompetence as a writer, it’s clear that Dylan has created a new way to express literature, and for this reason he deserves the Nobel Prize.

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