Bob Dylan for 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature


“It’s hard being free in a song-getting it all in.

Songs are so confining/A song has to

have some kind of form to fit into the music.

You can bend the words and metre, but it

still has to fit somehow.

I’ve been getting freer in the songs I write,

but I still feel confined.

That’s why I write a lot of poetry-if that’s the word.

Poetry can make its own form.”

-Bob Dylan (New York, 1966)

            The dictionary states that a poem is: a composition in verse. Write down any song written by Bob Dylan or any other musical artist and wouldn’t that just be a verse set to music? If you or I write a few lines, maybe some of the lines rhyme, maybe some don’t, are we then poets?  If my 6-year old writes some silly rhyming words on a piece of paper and then sings them, is she a songwriter?

Over the past several years there has been controversy swirling about whether or not Bob Dylan qualifies as a poet or a songwriter.  The controversy began when in 1996 when Dylan was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. In fact, he has been nominated many times. His work must be at least considered literature for the lyrics to his song, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, appeared in the well known Norton Introduction to Literature Tenth Edition.  However, as I scan my college text, Modern Poems, it seems that only “official” poets are listed. Known poets, such as Walt Whitman, Adrienne Rich, Wallace Stevens and Dylan Thomas to name just a few are listed in the index. So the question is there, asked by myself and countless others, is Bob Dylan a songwriter or poet?  Couldn’t he be both?  After all I am not just a college student, I am a mother and a wife too!

As a student of poetry I decided to take a closer look at this question by using what I know about Dylan and what I know about poetry.  Let’s start by stating the obvious; the man is not a singer in today’s sense of the word “singer”.  Can you imagine a young Robert Zimmerman on stage in front of the judges on American Idol?  I know, I just threw my head back and laughed too.  It is safe to say that I never once left one of his concerts remarking about his vocal talent. I have, however, left saying, “I actually understood him that time.”  But it isn’t his scruffy, out of tune folksy voice that captures the audience, it is the lyrics.  It is his stage presence and the way he shows us his passion for his craft through his emotions and the rhythm of his songs.

“Not all great poets-like Wallace Stevens-are great singers.

But a great singer-like Billie Holiday-is always a great poet.”

-Bob Dylan

In His Own Words, 1968

It is a fact that Dylan has been influenced a great deal by poetry.  Let’s look at Bob’s name.  He was born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941.  There has been suggestion that he took the name from well known Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas.  In 1968 he stated “It wasn’t Dylan Thomas at all, it just came to me. I know about Dylan Thomas of course, but I didn’t deliberately pick his name.”  Earlier in 1966 he was quoted saying “I’ve done more for Dylan Thomas than he’s ever done for me”. Personally, I would have to agree.  I only picked up a Dylan Thomas book of poetry because of my admiration for Bob Dylan.

Dylan also mentions poets in some of his lyrics, like in the song “Desolation Row”,

Praise to be Nero’s Neptune

The Titanic sails at dawn

And everybody’s shouting

“Which Side Are You On?”

And Erza Pound and T.S.Eliot

Fighting in the captain’s tower

While calypso’s singer’s laugh at them

And fisherman hold flowers.

Dylan himself has said that he has been influenced by poetry.  He names Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine alongside Woody Guthrie as important forebears.  In the Bob Dylan Encyclopedia by Michael Gray (yes there really is a Bob Dylan Encyclopedia) there is a section where several poets make comments regarding Dylan.  My favorite is this one by poet John Berryman in an exchange quoted from the authorized biography by John Haffenden:

“I can never forgive that young upstart for stealing my friend Dylan’s name,” he roared about Bob Dylan.

“Yes, but do you agree he’s a poet?”

“Yes, if only he’d learn to sing!”

Robert Lowell, however, was more critical and stated, “He has lines, but I doubt if he has written any whole poems.  He leans on the crutch of his guitar.”  (1971)

Perhaps it is time to look at one of Bob Dylan’s songs.  Break it down like you would a poem by Yeats or Frost. I chose “I Shall Be Free No. 10” from his 1964 album, Another Side of Bob Dylan.  I chose it for one reason, in the song he states “I’m a poet, and I know it.”  This is a rather long “poem” and some of it I honestly could not figure out, so I will use the skills I learned in Intro to Poetry and interpret it to the best of my ability.  My thoughts are in bold.   I found that there are literally thousands of papers, books, articles and essays on the analysis of Bob Dylan’s lyrics.  Makes you wonder why?  Could it be…?

I Shall Be Free No. 10

I’m just average, common too
I’m just like him, the same as you
I’m everybody’s brother and son
I ain’t different from anyone
It ain’t no use a-talking to me
It’s just the same as talking to you

            Dylan has stated on numerous occasions and in countless interviews (especially in the late 60’s) that he doesn’t like the term “prophet” as many have claimed him to be. This paragraph states just that.  There is a rhyme pattern here, aabbc. (1.) Curious wouldn’t you say…


I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day
I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay
I said “Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come
26, 27, 28, 29, I’m gonna make your face look just like mine
Five, four, three, two, one, Cassius Clay you’d better run
99, 100, 101, 102, your ma won’t even recognize you
14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, gonna knock him clean right out of his spleen”

This stanza (2.) is about Muhammad Ali’s Heavyweight Championship fight against Sonny Liston in which Ali was the underdog but he bragged about being the greatest anyway and later when on to prove it during the fight.  Cassius Clay was his name at the time of the fight, he changed it to Muhammad Alit shortly after he won the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1964.  There is also an  internal aabb rhyme pattern.  Interesting…


Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told
The streets in heaven are lined with gold
I ask you how things could get much worse
If the Russians happen to get up there first
Wowee! Pretty scary!

It is my opinion that this stanza refers to the “Space Race” between the US and the Soviet Union.  Again there is the presence of the aabbc rhyme scheme.


Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want ev’rybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I’m crazy!
I wouldn’t let him do it for all the farms in Cuba

Dylan was never one to shy from political controversy and he does not do so here either. He is referencing Goldwater, a conservative US Senator, who in 1964, the year this song came out, was running for the Presidency against Lyndon Johnson.  His tone is meant to be funny I believe.  Rhyme pattern is evident.


Well, I set my monkey on the log
And ordered him to do the Dog
He wagged his tail and shook his head
And he went and did the Cat instead
He’s a weird monkey, very funky.

This stanza baffles me and I consider it nonsense.  I also take into account that he did record this album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, in one all-night session on June 9, 1964.  I again see the familiar aabbc pattern along with the internal rhyme in the last line, monkey and funky.


I sat with my high-heeled sneakers on
Waiting to play tennis in the noonday sun
I had my white shorts rolled up past my waist
And my wig-hat was falling in my face
But they wouldn’t let me on the tennis court.

I believe this is showing Dylan’s adversity to people who think they are better than everyone else because of their bank accounts or social standing in life.  Always humble, Bob has never succumbed to this absurdity within himself which probably is what I like best about him. Note the rhyme scheme, again aabbc, although “on” and “sun” could also be near-rhymes.


I got a woman, she’s so mean
She sticks my boots in the washing machine
Sticks me with buckshot when I’m nude
Puts bubblegum in my food
She’s funny, wants my money, calls me “honey”

As scrawny as Dylan was back then he definitely did not lack in the female companionship department. So, this stanza could be a reference to numerous women or just one he was remembering at the time. I do know that he met his wife Sara in late 1964 so I don’t believe it was a reference to her. They later divorced in 1977.  Again aabbc is evident with internal rhyme in the last line. 


Now I got a friend who spends his life
Stabbing my picture with a bowie knife
Dreams of strangling me with a scarf
When my name comes up he pretends to barf
I’ve got a million friends!


Searched and searched for possible enemies that Bob knew of or had at this time and came up with nothing. This could be expression of an inner turmoil of Dylan’s. Rhyme scheme aabbc once again.  I find it remarkable that the same terms I am using to describe the lyrics of this song are found in my College textbook on Poetry.


Now they asked me to read a poem
At the sorority sisters’ home
I got knocked down and my head was swimmin’
I wound up with the Dean of Women
Yippee! I’m a poet, and I know it
Hope I don’t blow it.

Ahhh! This is the stanza I find to be very funny and was the inspiration for this article.  Dylan himself exclaims he is a poet in the lyrics.  Another apparent rhyme pattern and notice how his words read like poetry.   It is safe to say that he didn’t “blow it!” 


I’m gonna grow my hair down to my feet so strange
So I look like a walking mountain range
And I’m gonna ride into Omaha on a horse
Out to the country club and the golf course
Carry The New York Times, shoot a few holes, blow their minds.

Classic Bob really, doing the unexpected.   No question the man is unique and that is what vaulted him to the status he is at.  In each stanza he tells the listener a little about himself but more importantly, a little about what is in each one of us.  We are all not so different really.  One thing that is certain, over the years, Dylan has blown my mind and I am sure he done so to countless others. 


Now you’re probably wondering by now
Just what this song is all about
What’s probably got you baffled more
Is what this thing here is for
It’s nothing
It’s something I learned over in England.

Source of lyrics:

Of course we are wondering BOB!  That is what your songs do to us avid fans.  Your lyrics make us stop and say “Wait…what?” and that is what a song is suppose to do in my opinion. To make you feel and think what is  beyond the words and look more closely at their meaning.   I like the quote from the French Philosopher, Voltaire, which says: 

“Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”


            Back to my question: is Dylan a songwriter, a poet or perhaps both?  I believe my breakdown of one of his songs shows that he is indeed both. While the song lyrics I chose have significant rhyme patterns, it also has a natural poetic flow to it when just read aloud with no music accompaniment.

The dictionary also states that Poetry is: writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.  (3.)

There is no question that Dylan should be considered a poet and therefore his nomination to win the Nobel Prize for Literature should be respected and honored.  The real question is not whether or not Bob Dylan is a poet, for he is, the question that remains unanswered is why he has not been awarded this prestigious and well deserved honor to date.  That is the true question.

As stated in the notes of his second album, Freewheelin Bob Dylan, recorded in 1963, Dylan said:

“Anything I can sing, I call a song.  Anything I can’t sing, I call a poem.”

Please take the time to check out Bob Dylan for the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature page on Facebook and click LIKE.  Not sure whose idea it was to start such a page but let’s hope it works. Mr. Dylan more than deserves to get the honor. Also, I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Works Cited and Referenced:

Gray, Michael. The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.  Continum. New York. 2006

Ricks, Christopher. Dylan’s Vision of Sin. Ecco Language: eng New York. 2004

Riley, Tim. Hard Rain. A Dylan Commentary. Da Capo Press. New York. Updated Ed, 1999.

Williams, Christian. In His Own Words Bob Dylan. Omnibus Press. New York. 1993.




Ink In Thirds

New Magazine Combines Stunning Photos With Stellar Prose
Review of Ink in Thirds, Fall
Conventional (i.e. not experimental),

Delivering ten issues a year, Ink in Thirds is a print and digital magazine founded by previous Three Line Thursday Editor Grace Black and is based out of Alabama.  I am honored to have been asked to write an unbiased review of this fifth issue by Ms. Grace herself. While she is an editor, she is also a seasoned and widely published writer whose work I have had the fortune to read and review on previous occasions.

Ink In Thirds not only delivers to approximately fifteen hundred subscribers, it also delivers quality writing, photography, editing, formatting, and is truly an all-encompassing, solid read and visual delight.

Established as a magazine of “poised prose, precarious poetry, and photography to pilot our own realms again” this thirty-four-page gem definitely encourages you to do just that. Within moments of its arrival to my doorstop, I tweeted to all of my writing friends to check it out, read the guidelines and submit, submit, submit, stating “You’re going to want to get published in this one.”

Accepting the “weird” and “unique” is their specialty as long as the work makes the reader feel. They will consider all types of prose including flash fiction, drabbles, 3-word stories as well as poetry and photography. They read all year long, do not charge a reading fee and respond to submissions in a timely manner.

Visually, this literary magazine can be described using one word, luxurious. From cover to cover you will be rewarded with a smorgasbord of delights for the eye. Careful, precise placement of the contributing photographs are well-placed throughout, rhythmically moving you from page to page. The front cover is a photograph by the talented poet and photographer Matt Adamik whose work I am familiar with. In both of his submitted photos (the cover and page 14) he uses the technique of bokeh (intentional blurring) to heighten the intensity of the subject matter. A brilliant choice to highlight his work on the cover as it sets the tone for the entire magazine as a whole to be one of reflective pieces’ juxtapositioned with bold and intense photography and color that leave the reader anxious to see what they will find when they turn the page.

Ink In Thirds opens up with a clean Contents Page followed by a letter from the editor whose opening line, “The supple succor of silence in each drop of rain as it falls helps create a backdrop for this issue,” is as beautifully written as any poem on the pages that trail it, validating her passion for creating something distinct. One only need to turn the page to reveal that she succeeds.

As much as I would love to comment on each submission, neither time or space allows. A quick read through the Contributors Notes confirmed my suspicion that the majority, actually all but one, of the submissions come from seasoned writers with extensive publishing credits, nominations, awards and/or varied educational backgrounds which is slightly disheartening. As a writer of poetry myself, I strive to comment on new writers specifically within a review in order to encourage them to continue to submit.

As a huge William Carlos Williams fan I fell in love with Ray Busler’s piece entitled, “The Orange” as it reminded me so much of Mr. Williams’ work with its simple subject matter turned into a thoughtful retrospective. The accompanying photograph, courtesy of John Wilson, makes this gray print on black glossy page a true stand-out alongside Mr. Wilson’s subtle photo of oranges, where I believe he uses the exposure technique of ‘dodging and burning’ (in digital processing it’s known as tone mapping) to make the oranges appear to linger in the shadows of the written words beside it which just so happens to be a poem about oranges.  Outstanding layout concept that impacts the reader’s senses.

The adjacent page finds the print choice in opposition with black print on a gray page (so clever) to showcase journalism Professor Howie Good’s piece “Sorry, Something Went Wrong.” Good’s contribution is three short, oddly connected works of prose which, upon careful examination, are actually revealing observations that are not only entertaining but well-crafted in their verse. Take for example this line:

“If you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably not a bad choice. But don’t expect to look much like Matt Damon.”  I literally laughed out loud.

Unafraid of color and standing behind their desire to encourage “poised prose” and “precarious poetry”, Ink In Thirds rewards the reader with a splash of unexpected turquoise on pages 17 & 18 accompanied by two standout pieces. Writer Sara Codair’s prose entitled “Anxiety Meets the Data Maze” is a relatable tale written with powerful words that bring to life familiar imagery. Using Anxiety as a representative of life’s protagonist is creative with lines like, “Anxiety is detaining me” and “I rule, not Anxiety. I banish Her with a wondrous work of wizardry.”

Also highlighted in the sea of turquoise is a reflective poem by seasoned writer Changming Yuan called “Loose Thought” in which she uses the vivid images of tiny tropical fish swimming carefree in a pond as a metaphor for our ever changing thought patterns as we move through our lives.


Like a tiny tropical fish

                                         Swimming along a summer streamlet


                                         To the nimblest human hand

                                         Even after rushing into the pond or lake

                                         It can never be caught

                                         Within the largest net

                                         Of language



Additional works worth mentioning are “How to Speak” by Felino A. Soriano, an entwined re-wording of how each aspect of our upbringing lends itself to how we are perceived, and CR Smith’s three-line, untitled poem on page one. Ms. Smith uses five carefully chosen words that relay the message that reflection upon one’s past is an often distorted view of reality as each of us tend to “distill” our memories if only for self-preservation.

Ohio native Carl Boon, who currently resides in Turkey, contributes “Love in Three Parts” to September’s issue with a hauntingly sad, yet beautifully written triad of ways human beings bleed; by accident, by choice and too often, by fear. This piece squeezes the heart.

Ink In Thirds September Issue No. 5 has earned the distinction of five stars.  This issue has it all.  Strong, well-crafted work that leaves an imprint, and calculated and careful placement of both written content and photography. The magazine itself is printed on high quality, glossy paper and attention to every detail is evident. The work as a whole is balanced, including choice of varied contributors from all over the globe, although I would have enjoyed seeing a few new or first time published writers between the pages.

Grace Black’s promise to distribute “poised prose, precarious poetry, and photography” was a well-received delivery of a remarkable literary magazine.



Morning Routine

We check the time,

the weather.

We update our status

and scan the

status of others.

We tweet,


and Instagram our

way to the coffee pot.

Mostly though,

we check to see,


by chance

the world,


has ended.

dew kissed
fertile soil
separate us.
You lay still
this earth,
I alone,
above it.

Into The Void Magazine | Review | Issue One

Inaugural Issue of Irish Lit Mag Leaves Readers Breathless
Review of Into the Void Magazine, Summer
Conventional (i.e. not experimental),

Into The Void Magazine is a non-profit, quarterly print and digital literary magazine based out of Dublin, Ireland. They are proud to provide “a platform for fantastic fiction, non-fiction, poetry and visual art from all over the world.” Accepting of work from all genres and styles with the commitment to publish material they feel is “heartfelt, genuine and screaming to be seen.” I am delighted to receive the opportunity to review their inaugural issue.

At roughly 8 x 6 inches in size, the magazine has a vividly colorful cover image by photographer and writer Annie Dawid entitled “Window” and was the perfect choice for their first issue. The photo is reflective of the colorful and inspiring contents just beyond page one.

The issue opens with a dedication to spoken word poet and blogger Adam Gottschalk. Sadly, Adam passed away on June 16, 2016. As a follower of Mr. Gottschalk’s WordPress blog, I feel quite honored to have the opportunity to review his work.  Experiments on Breathing or One Moring in Hunan is Adam’s contribution to this first issue. In this four part non-fiction piece, he poignantly explains why he writes poems and why he will never stop. With quotable lines like, “I write poems to sew up holes the way one stitches wounds” one can truly feel how internally passionate he was about his writing and his eagerness to leave his impression upon us. His words are profound. In Part IV he reveals what he has learned about life so far;

The experiments continue. My conclusions thus far may be misguided but isn’t that

predicament the ultimate beauty in any experiment, any science, any poem, any day?

One prepares oneself at any moment to start from scratch again.

Words for us all to take into consideration wouldn’t you agree?  Thank you Mr. Gottschalk for making a difference on this earth with your words, personality and insight.

The Front Matter of the magazine includes a clear listing of all of the authors in page number order. This list is separate from the Contributors Notes, which in this issue, is in the back. Contact information is displayed in the front as well.

Issue One is sprinkled with both color and black & white images. The eclectic variety includes “10cc,” a unique piece (also my personal favorite) by Hungary based Pop artist Gergley Gyuircza, a nature inspired work entitled “Rockpools” by Australian painter Britta Stephen, and an oddly charming group of “Shoe Sculptures” by Boston University College Fine Arts graduate Gwen Murphy, along with several other visually enticing works.

The combination of fiction, non-fiction and poetry within the issue does not disappoint. Several standouts include Steve Lambert, Grace Black, Lynda Kirby, Neil Slevin and Dominic Martin, although I have to say, I truly enjoyed everything from cover to cover. The magazine is not theme-based, however, this particular volume is flavored with a feeling of careful intuitiveness. The contributions are fresh, profound and each piece delicately compliments those before it and after. The ebb and flow is natural, making it a polished read.

MFA candidate Steve Lambert’s contribution, “Another Poem About the Moon,” captivated me. The imagery of this piece was supplied by its whimsical structure. The clever mingling of words fold you into their love affair with lines like “we are like children, orphans on purpose, moving from meal to meal,” and “riding your bike on the beach with me, controlling the tides, making them dance behind you.” The imagery reads like a love song, light and airy. In the end you are enchanted by their story and the innocence of young love.

Poet Grace Black’s poem “Cobalt Veins,” while short in verse, packs a punch, leaving the reader in a state of utter sadness and feeling sympathy for her “gutted-out womb.” With an MA in Writing, Lynda Kirby’s prose entitled “The Painting,” was truly lyrical in the gentle telling of a young woman embracing the memories of her aging Grandmother with words knitted together like this, “applause ricocheting from the roof where the notes linger and memory dies” that leave you wanting to reach for a phone and call home.

Complementing the issue is a haunting and regret filled poem by writer Neil Slevin. “Ghost”gracefully describes the “close call” of two former lovers who chose separate paths to follow. The line “as I watched your life without me in it,” caused my heart to squeeze once and then again as he wonders “what could have been.”

To ensure a fresh perspective when reading for a review I almost always read the Contributors Notes after I have read a particular writers work. Being that I do read a large amount of work, I don’t like to be biased in regards to what I expect from a seasoned writer versus an emerging writer.  Every once in a while, as in the case of Mr. Martin, I am shocked by how wrong I can be when it comes to predicting the bio of a particular author.

“Soft in Mouth,” by Italian based writer Dominic Martin, was one of my favorite reads in this issue. This short story is a heartfelt classic “boy meets girl” tale set during World War II with a twist.  Meet Dick and Jane.  Jane is doing her part to support the war effort by filling the gap in the industrial field left by men who went to serve their country. Jane meets a pilot, Dick, who she begins a steamy relationship with whenever and wherever they can.  Jane is strong, independent and clearly the driving force of the pair. She is unafraid, wanton with him. Their affair is casual but intense. They pluck through life, each note on the guitar string a hasty intercourse. Mr. Martin’s story-telling ability is profound, detail orientated and elegantly sexy while in the same breath, simple and sensual. With descriptive verses like “She felt the hair behind her ear, the weakness in her middle like a sprain” and “She was the life in his throat” he demonstrates her independence by revealing small nuances to the story.  Mr. Martin’s writing is expressive and appear to come from a place of knowing. His choices are careful, the lines are soft with structure but hard in meaning as he keeps independent their love in a bubble, protected by the realities of the war around them. Take for instance this excerpt;

In the morning he watched the creasing of her back and the taut, heartbreaking lines behind her knees. He was on ancient land. It was in her power to end him; throw his heart into the sea. A thousand miles away her cousins knelt on Nazi throats.

The entire story moves swiftly then pauses, then picks up again, leaving you breathless. It is a rollercoaster of a ride that, for me, was going to reveal a worldly author, perhaps even a tenured Professor but alas, I was incorrect and I will leave it at that. I will definitely seek out other work by this author.

Other contributors worth a mention are Cinthia Ritchie, Bruce Majors and Joni Bour. As I stated earlier though, all the work in this issue is of high quality and I enjoyed reading every piece and I wish space allowed me to comment on them all.

Visually this magazine uses space fantastically. Often editors will allow one poem per page, even if the poem is the length of a haiku. Into the Void fills each crevice, packaging pieces together in thematically appropriate groups. Take for example Steve Lambert’s piece on page three. Opposite his poem is a collection of photographs by award winning Italian photographer Marco Castelli.  His take on “Universes in universes” is a group of photos that give the illusion of five different views of the moon but the photos are, in fact, photographs of bacterial colonies. This juxtapositioning of a poem about the moon and photos that hold the appearance of being moons is what makes this magazine unique.  Time, thought, and creativity is brought to each page. The Editorial team does this throughout the magazine and they do it brilliantly.

For writers considering submitting, there are a few things you need to know. They do charge a very small reading fee, however, they also pay upon publication. They welcome seasoned writers as well as promising new authors.  They nominate for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Currently they are reading for their next issue. The deadline is Midnight, September 25, 2016.

Into The Void Magazine‘s inaugural issue is going to get a strong five out of five stars from this reviewer for the simple fact that for a first issue, this literary magazine is outstanding.  The combination of quality content, formatting, submission placement and integral artwork left me ecstatic to have a copy in my ever growing collection of literary journals. I will be anxious to see Issue Two.

Note: If you ever find yourself in Ireland, be sure to stop by Books Upstairs, located at 17 D’Olier Street, Dublin 2. Copies of Into The Void Magazine are kept in stock there.