Monday, November 08, 2004

The Muse in Dylan's Chronicles

Now that the political shitstorm has gone out to sea leaving us with a foot of fear and loathing, it’s time to throw another log on the fire and ask why write poetry. Answers come pre-packaged these days.

Then there’s the art of language by itself, some masturbatory purgatory that plays with the balls of language but never gets off a lick of connotation. Or, on the other hand, there’ s the kiss of ritual that never sucks more than it needs to.

Bob Dylan thinks differently:
I can’t say when it occurred to me to write my own songs. I couldn’t have come up with anything comparable or halfway close to the folk lyrics I was singing to define the way I felt about the world. I guess it happens to you by degrees. You just don’t wake up one day and decide that you need to write songs, especially if you’re a singer who has plenty of them and you’re learning more every day. Opportunities may come along for you to convert something—something that exists into something that didn’t yet. That might be the beginning of it. Sometimes you just want to do things your way, want to see for yourself what lies beyond the misty curtain. It’s not like you see songs approaching and invite them in. It’s not that easy. You want to write songs that are bigger than life. You want to say something about strange things that have happened to you, strange things that you have seen. You have to know and understand something and then go past the vernacular. The chilling precision that these oldtimers used in coming up with their songs was no small thing. Sometimes you could hear a song and your mind jumps ahead. You see similar patterns in the ways that you were thinking about things. I never looked at songs as either “good” or “bad,” only different kinds of good ones.
That’s from page fifty-one of his “Chronicles,” which is more my friends than a mere autobiography but something very biblical as its title may suggest. But gossip rules these days and wisdom is just another name for marketing. Don’t buy the hype on this one though. Read between the lines.

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