Bob Dylan and Poetry as Oral Art by Kevin Crowe

When singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, the choice proved controversial. There were those who approved, for example novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie, who wrote on Twitter: “Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the Bardic tradition”. But others on Twitter criticised the decision, like novelist Irvine Welsh’s vicious reaction: “…this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies”. Others used irony, such as writer Gary Shteyngart: “I totally get the Nobel committee. Reading books is hard.” (all three quotes from 13th October, 2016).

At the heart of this debate is the question of whether Dylan is a poet or not. British poet laureate Simon Armitage, despite his fondness for his music, doesn’t think so. Whereas literary critic,  academic and author of “Dylan’s Vision of Sin” (2004) Christopher Ricks thinks he is.

The debate isn’t just about Dylan. It is about how we define poetry and whether popular songs can be poetry at all. Few would doubt there are many songwriters whose lyrics are intelligent and literate. From Cole Porter to Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and taking in the likes of Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, Stevie Wonder and many others, literate lyrics have been a feature of popular music since commercial recordings began in the 1920s. But according to poet laureate Simon Armitage:

Songwriters are not poets. Or songs are not poems, I should say. In fact, songs are often bad poems. Take the music away and what you’re left with is often an awkward piece of creative writing full of lumpy syllables, cheesy rhymes, exhausted cliches and mixed metaphors. (The Guardian, 27 June, 2008).

Clearly, the lyrics of popular songs are verse, yet the likes of Armitage argue they are not poetry. So what, if anything, is the difference between poems and song lyrics? Jane Webb, Director of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, University of Canberra, defines the difference thus:

Poems, generally speaking, behave on the page, and operate against silence. Song lyrics, generally speaking, perform in sound, and operate in a relationship with musical apparatus. (“The Conversation” 19th June, 2017.

However, poet A. E. Houseman (author of the perennially popular “A Shropshire Lad”) suggests that any definition of poetry is going to be inadequate:

I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat, but that I thought we both recognised the object by the symptoms which it provokes in us. (“The Name and Nature of Poetry” 1933).

Houseman highlights the problems with any attempt to coral poetry inside a fence: given the subjective nature of literary appreciation, how can we have an objective definition that everyone can agree on? Poetry – and poets – will always find ways of smashing through any artificial barriers.

The notion that poetry is for the page and song for the voice, as expressed by Jane Webb, is not only limiting. It also ignores the whole history of poetry as well as the activities of contemporary writers who call themselves poets.

Let’s look at that history. The first thing we notice is that poetry pre-dates literate society. Indeed, the very notion of it as something for the page is a relatively recent one. In the Western tradition, among the earliest examples of the art are the works attributed to Homer: “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”, works that are among the most influential ever written, the latter even being the inspiration for the 2000 comedy film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” featuring bluegrass and acoustic country music.

We don’t know exactly when Homer’s poetry was composed, indeed we don’t even know whether the name “Homer” referred to just one person or several. It is estimated they were written about the late 8th century BCE, but we aren’t even certain about that. Nor are we certain about the exact text of the poems. This is for the simple reason they were originally transmitted orally and as they were passed from place to place, year to year, person to person, the text could change. We think the poems were first written down in the 6th century BCE, at least 200 years after they were first composed.

Homer isn’t an isolated example of poetry as an oral art. At one time, it was the norm. For example, the Old English epic “Beowulf” is thought to have been originally transmitted orally, only first being written down in the tenth century CE. That the poem contains different dialects and combines both Pagan and Christian elements certainly argues for it being composed and handed down orally.

Many of the Norse sagas, such as “The Orkneyinga Saga” and the various Icelandic Sagas were compiled in the middle ages from oral sources which had been passed down from generation to generation.

Nor was it just epic poetry and sagas that had their roots in the oral tradition. In Ancient Greece, lyric poetry was sung to the accompaniment of the lyre or similar instruments. One of the most famous lyric poets of that era was Sappho, from the island of Lesbos, a woman who sang love poems to other women. Elegies too were oral poetry, generally recited to a flute accompaniment.

Even if we restrict ourselves to the British Isles, we see that some of our most famous poets were not – or not always – page poets. Three examples will show this.

Firstly, William Shakespeare who some have called our greatest poet ever. He did write sonnets and longer poems such as “Venus and Adonis”. However most of his best poetry is found in his plays, works that were written to be performed and that were subject to changes depending on how  rehearsals and performances went. The texts of his plays were not routinely printed during his lifetime, apart from copies likely to be used by actors. It wasn’t until 1623, seven years after his death, that 36 of his plays were published in the First Folio. People have argued ever since as to how accurate these texts are and even today directors of his dramas play around with the text.

As anyone who has been forced to read one of his plays without the advantage of seeing a performance will know, his plays only really come to life on the stage, the screen or on radio. Whether it be the murder of the poet Cinna after being mistaken for one of the conspirators in “Julius Caesar” or Lady Macbeth trying to wipe imaginary blood from her hands or the courtroom scene in “The Merchant of Venice”, we need to see or hear or have seen or heard these performed to relate emotionally to the words and action. It makes no sense to me to teach Shakespeare merely on the basis of written texts without access to performances.

Secondly, Robert Burns is often referred to as the “Bard of Scotland”. Although he did write page poetry, he is perhaps most famous for his songs. Indeed he considered himself a songwriter, played the fiddle and the cittern and put his words to music he either composed himself or adapted from traditional sources. According to Dr Fred Freeman in his introduction to the CD box set “The Complete Songs of Robert Burns”: …he considered it [songwriting] high art; the ideal medium for much of his creative output….For Burns, composition and editing became, primarily, a matter of what he termed “ballad simplicity”.

As with Dylan, his melodies can enhance or change the meaning of the words, hence for example the debates over which tune provides the best accompaniment to the words of “Auld Lang Syne”. Poems such as the achingly beautiful “Red Red Rose” really do come to life when sung. When folk singer Sheena Wellington sang “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”, Burns’ ode to social justice and internationalism, at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, her performance gave extra relevance to the poem. And reggae-influenced versions of his “The Slave’s Lament” provide additional poignancy and power to the words.

Thirdly, 18th century Highland Gaelic-speaking poet Rob Donn Mackay, who could neither read nor write. He composed his poetry in his head, memorised it and travelled throughout the far north counties of Sutherland and Caithness, reciting his poetry. He also sang many of his poems, sometimes borrowing melodies and sometimes composing his own airs. His wonderful poems have only survived because before his death he dictated them to a scribe. In her 2016 thesis “Rob Donn Mackay: Finding the Music in His Songs” (Edinburgh University), Dr Ellen Beard writes:

…a critical assessment of Rob Donn merely as a poet seriously underestimates his achievement in combining words and music to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Whether Dylan’s poetry works on the page or not is irrelevant because – like much of the work of Shakespeare, Burns and Rob Donn – it was never meant to be consumed that way. Insisting that the page is the standard by which we judge poetry shows either a perverse rewriting of the history of poetry or an ignorance of that history.

One of the cultural features of the second half of the 20th century was the rise of poets who rejected the page as the height of the art form. The Beat Poets like Allen Ginsberg not only saw public readings as a crucial part of their art, but they also performed and collaborated with musicians (in Ginsberg’s case, including Dylan) as well as accompanying themselves. Ginsberg’s angry, hallucinatory, surrealist and sexually explicit masterpiece “Howl” was performed publicly before it was published. According to Ginsberg himself, the structure of the poem is based on bebop, a type of jazz.

In the 1960s, Canadian poet Leonard Cohen decided to try his hand at songwriting. He moved to New York, was for a while involved with Andy Warhol’s “Factory”, began singing at folk festivals and in 1967 released the first of many critically acclaimed albums. His 1993 print collection “Stranger Music” brought together both his published poetry and lyrics of his songs in one volume.

At the same time in Britain, a group of Liverpool poets influenced by the Beat movement and the pop music of the Beatles and other bands from that city, began writing accessible poetry that was performed in public, often with musical accompaniment. The collection “The Mersey Sound” – featuring the poetry of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten – became one of the best selling poetry collections of all time. All three of these poets also worked successfully with musicians, writing songs or adapting their poetry to the music, with Roger McGough’s band Scaffold (which also included Paul McCartney’s brother Mike) even having a number 1 hit in the pop charts with “Lily the Pink”.

Equally as important as the Liverpool poets is Linton Kwesi Johnson who was born in Jamaica and moved to London in 1963. In the early 1970s, influenced by reggae he developed a form of deeply political performance poetry he called dub. He has also been a major influence on the development of rap.

Both the Liverpool poets and the likes of Linton Kwesi Johnson laid the foundations for the development of performance poetry as a major force, one that is still going strong today with poetry slams, pub nights and festivals. In his early days, John Cooper Clarke often performed his poetry to a punk rock accompaniment. Benjamin Zephaniah has used dub and reggae in his work. And more recently, Kae Tempest has become one of the most successful of performance poets, often using the techniques of rap.

No matter how contemporary the likes of Kae Tempest might sound, they and other poets, songwriters and singers – including Bob Dylan – continue to return poetry to its historical and cultural roots as an oral art form. Rather than erecting elitist barriers, we should be celebrating the wonderful diversity of poetry – in print, in performance and accompanied by music.

Kevin Crowe May 2022.

Kevin Crowe Biography:

Kevin was born in Manchester in 1951. He has been a Dylan fan since the mid 1960s, first saw him live in 1969 at the Isle of Wight Festival and has been to numerous concerts since.

Before going to university as a mature student, he worked in various factories and bars. After getting his degree, he worked in social care for many years (including ten years working with people with HIV/AIDS), before moving to the Scottish Highlands with his husband in 1999 to open a bookshop and restaurant.

Kevin has over the years had fiction, poetry and non-fiction published in many magazines, anthologies and in recent years online. He has read his work at many locations, including the Scottish Parliament, Glasgow’s Aye Write Festival, Ullapool Book Festival and John O’ Groats Book Festival. In 2020, he had his collection of short stories “No Home In This World” published by Manchester independent publisher Fly-On-The-Wall Press, the title coming from a song written by Woody Guthrie. Also in 2020, he was appointed as editor of the award-winning Highlands LGBT+ magazine “UnDividingLines”.

An Interview with Indie Musician Austin Lucas (2020) Fevers of the Mind Press Presents

Austin Lucas has a new album “Alive in the Hot Zone” which many have in their year-end best of 2020 award nominees.

 (Cornelius Chapel Records)

First off Thanks Austin for granting an interview with us at Fevers of the Mind Press for the Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest: The Poets of 2020.

Austin: Thanks so much for including me

Q: It has been over a year since the last issue.  It is weird, it seems like something might have happened to try to jog away from the creativity into a slow depression month after month as this has continued.   The year 2020 has been some work, and it has taken nearly a year for me to fully get my creative fuses (mostly out of the anger of this year) to feel like there has to be another edition!  There are many voices out there that have been writing through the year, and their voices all need to be heard. 

With that, how have you kept your creativity with writing songs & putting out a new album? Was it any different going into the studio and recording the new album in the wake of the pandemic.

Austin:  I have found myself baffled by the disconnect from reality among my fellow americans, along with their seemingly limitless capacity to entirely abandon reason.  As for inspiration and the process of staying active in song writing, it seems that I was able to have even more time to exercise my capacity for creation with so much time off the road.

Q: I was a huge fan of Immortal Americans & Shallow Inland Sea after hearing your appearances on the comedy podcast Improv4Humans with Matt Besser.  Even my 8-year-old daughter became a fan of “Immortal Americans” and I love that song and Shallow Inland Sea) How is Matt Besser and the Improv4Humans experience?

Austin: I love Matt and all the I4H crew so it’s always so cool when I get to collaborate with them and also when I hear that someone discovered me through that medium.

Q: I’ve been listening to the new single “Drive” on repeat listens, and watching the interesting Pandemic feel of the video on Youtube.   Where was it filmed?

Austin: Well it was shot in Berlin during the pandemic, so what you were seeing is life as it is currently lived. That video was a phenomenal experience because I was able to cast a bunch of my favorite people who I honestly don’t get to see often enough.

Q: How are you maintaining focus and coming up with new creative endeavors without the touring and the availability of concerts?  Tell us a little about the Save the Stage movement also.

Austin: As I mentioned before, I seem to have almost boundless creative energy when so much of my time isn’t spent traveling and feeling worn down by life on the road. Sometimes I get incredibly tired still, due to my intense training and coaching schedule with Muay Thai but even that doesn’t distract me and leave me feeling so depleted as constant travel.

Q: When I heard your interviews regarding your songs in the past, I was excited to learn that you grew up in the Bloomington, Indiana area.  I grew up in Western Kentucky and lived in Evansville for nearly 20 years.  I’ve spent many nights visiting Bloomington.  Always good shows up there.  What was it like growing up in the Midwest?  What about the Midwest do you love, and what part of it makes you shake your head?

Austin: I don’t know, there are so many things I both love and hate about the Midwest but honestly, I don’t find much more wrong with the Midwest than I do with any other part of the USA. There’s good and bad and the bad things are found in literally every corner of the United States. I do love how direct people are in the Midwest vs. other parts of the US though. We’re polite but we won’t bend over backwards and bullshit you if we think you suck.

Q: I know you have many roots in punk music and for most of your career, you have spun punk ideologies into an Americana/rock-folk carving.  So, who were your heroes musically, and inevitably with writing song lyrics that maybe have helped you weave the two musical styles into your niche?

Austin: His Hero Is Gone, Discharge, X, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Beatles. Jason Molina is probably my greatest lyrical influence but there’s a lot in my repertoire that’s derived from my upbringing in the Bluegrass and folk lineage.

Q: What is your process when you write a song?  How long does it usually take to come up with a full song to your liking, music and all?

Austin: It really depends, I’m a notoriously furious and extensive self editor so it can take anywhere from hours to years for me to write a song. I generally begin with a riff and build words and melody around the first riff that I write and go for there.

Q: I’d like to congratulate you on your nomination in the category for  Americana Song of the Year in the upcoming AMA-UK Awards in 2021.   How do you handle the recognition that you deserve for your work? 

Austin: Thanks so much, I honestly just smile and feel grateful. I’ve been in this songwriting game for a very long time and have yet to receive many accolades. Which means that while I appreciate it all the more as a result, I also have a hard time imagining that it will be a regular occurrence. At the moment I’m just gonna soak it up and be grateful that some folks cared enough to nominate me for an award in the first place.

Q: You’ve worked with many great artists on albums such as Lydia Loveless & John Moreland.  Is there a musician out there that you would love to work with, or came close to working with that once (hopefully) someday when COVID is gone that you’d feel like this could be the ultimate collaboration?

Austin: I’d honestly love to work with several artists but the dream for me would be to just sing duets with Dolly and Emmylou or Gillian Welch. My other biggest dreams are to make albums with Baroness and Neurosis and also to make an album with Blitzen Trapper would be an absolute dream.

Q: Out of the many, many songs you’ve written.  Which do you feel the most complete lyrically let’s say, or just satisfied with the outcome.  Do you ever feel like hey, where did these words come to me from?  I think lyrically Monroe City Nights resonates with me so well.  I can feel the sadness of the Midwest & the vulnerability to adapt and so everything just seems stagnant (in the solitude of okay, I guess this is how my life has to be?)

Austin: To my mind, that song is absolutely one of my crowing masterpieces in a lot of ways. I’m honestly very proud of my body of work overall but my last 2 albums have probably had the most of what I’d consider “me” in them.

Q: Tell me about the new album “Alive in the Hot Zone” released this Fall.  What about this album is getting the buzz of Austin Lucas out there in the Americana & Indie scene.  What about this album, do you feel is different from your other albums? 

Austin: I honestly don’t know, I guess it’s the fact that I managed to write about what everyone was going through in the world right now and actually release it while we were still experiencing it as a global community

Q: Finally, the dumb question.  Let’s say some bozo with some weapon comes up to you.  Let’s say He’s like I’ve got 2 albums that you have to re-make, and you have to choose one to cover completely (no matter what it does for your career) and hey maybe you can change the dynamic of people’s minds about the albums, Do you cover Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True” album or Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes”?

Austin: I’d personally rather cover Go Go’s “Beauty and the Beat but I think I’d go with the Debbie Gibson album, if those were my only two options.

Q: No really, we’ve seen like full album covers by artists like Beck, the Bird, and the Bee, and ummm…yeah Ryan Adams do such, if you ever went that route with an album what would you consider an awesome honorable album to cover?

Austin: Oh, haha, I guess I already answered that question but let me say two things. 1. Ryan Adams is a creep and 2. I’d also really love to cover the entirety of the Cure “Pornography” or “Darklands” by Jesus and Mary Chain

Q: Thank you, Austin for spending a little bit of your time with Fevers of the Mind, and much success on the new album & good luck with the award nomination.

Austin: Thank you so much for sitting down and asking me these questions.

Bio Courtesy of Austin

Austin Lucas is a punk journeyman, activist and songwriter from Bloomington, Indiana. Consumed by an overdeveloped sense of wanderlust as a young person, Austin spent his formative years in the driver’s seat of various beat-up Ford Econolines. Burning through countless miles and living the world over, he’s made his home everywhere from the American West Coast to the Czech Republic.

As a young person, Austin worshipped a diverse mixture of Classic Rock, Country, Punk, Psychedelic Folk and Mountain Music, and has made a career by successfully fusing these disparate influences into something uniquely his own. Emerging as a prominent and revered talent among his fans and peers, Austin has stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the most recognizable icons of Folk, Punk, Indie, Country and Americana, all the while uplifting the traditions of Roots Music and holding true to the attitude and ethics of political DIY Punk and Indie music as the lifeblood that runs through his veins.

Releasing albums since 2006, Austin Lucas has been a fixture in the worlds of Alternative Country and Folk Punk for nearly two decades, having sang alongside and toured with everyone from Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, Ray Price, Brent Cobb, Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan, Dawes, Langhorne Slim, Joe Pug, John Moreland, Lucero and many others. To hear Austin Lucas or see him live is to discover the type of well-kept secret that can only stay that way for so long.

During the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown Austin Lucas has sheltered in place in Mainz, Germany. Although growing homesick far away from his home and family in Indiana, he has successfully used this extra time and inspired energy to prove that it’s impossible to keep a good troubadour down, writing and recording songs for his forthcoming album, “Alive In The Hot Zone!”.

Inspired by Bob Dylan poems from Mark Andrew Heathcote

Lucifer’s wife

I’m waiting on my severance pay
And the gallows of the moon
When all you can say is I don’t care
Please, please go away 
What did you think I would do?
Did you think I would swoon?
Or drown in a lake 

Honey, I don’t care for all your cheap-talk
Darling takes a long walk all by your lonesome
Maybe the morning crickets will love you and cry
But-me I wish you would die

Please, please go away 
What did you think I would do?
Did you think I would whisper a fugitive’s-prayer?
Wish-you’d return a changed man 
No longer cruel or mean, please,
Please, please go away stop standing there
I’ve spider’s webs have better fair
With half-broken snare honey, what do I care?

I’m waiting, batting my blue soul-redeeming eyes.
But all my faults are my own faults that’s-no-surprise
And I am listening to all you say 
But have some heart for a yard dog’s bark 
Throw him a bone when he’s whimpering 
And he’s nowhere to steer, and the missed is closing in.

I’m waiting on my severance pay
And the gallows of the moon
But I’m stubborn I’m dogged 
I won’t throw in the towel
I’ll be happy with Lucifer’s wife
And darling evens you.

A thousand-different-ways

I’ll tread these hills a thousand-different-ways 
And catalogue every river and climb every mountain
I’ll turn every boulder and cross every crossroad
A little bit happier now I’m finding my way.

I’ll stop and talk to the gipsy woman and buy her heather
I won’t tread any more fearful than if you entered the room
And the whole of nature held its jealous breath
I’ll wash down my throat with water and bread
And thank the lord that I’m going to your bed.

I’ll burrow down with my beautiful 
My, how beautifully blessed are my eyes 
they’ve never-seen-better days
my, my cup is flowing overflowing 
because there’s an angel at my table 
and, she doesn’t-bark, 
she just-sings-like some heavenly skylark.

I’ll enter the dark because there’s an ember spark
and I’ll map every acre of god’s creation for you 
just to see those fireflies in your eyes looking back at me.

I’ll swim every river, lake and sea
I’ll cross every desert before I pass away
and know I’ve been saved, and I’m second-sighted 
and “prophetic thunder” he can only wonder
what I’ve done to deserve a woman like you.

The Lord of Catchers-Can

In the isles of a gutter
In the dim-lit graveyard of a church
A man must walk forever
With beggar's bowl in hand
And succumb to all the rough bad weather
A man can withhold, understand.

The Lord of Catchers-Can
Is both a shepherd and a man
From a palm of dust; father's the waters of the land.
And hails the wheat & barley to either fall or stand.

Into these storm drains of heaven
A dream is, washed away
Like the rains of yesterday.
A holy man sojourning for a little while came
And then was gone
Where no such earthly vanities belong
And blessed us in one name
In the light of the eternal flame
All sinners are likewise the same.

The Lord of Catchers-Can
Is both a shepherd and a man 
From a palm of dust; father's the waters of the land.
And hails the wheat & barley to either fall or stand.

It's here I've heard it said
We pay for the eyes of the dead
In the living hearts and souls left
To do, our living, to do, our living, when we're dead
So take my hand, 
The ways of the Lord are yours and mine to command, 
For every child, woman or a man.

The Lord of Catchers-Can
Is both a shepherd and a man
From a palm of dust; father's the waters of the land.
And hails the wheat & barley to fall, and stand.

Bio: Mark Andrew Heathcote is adult learning difficulties support worker, he has 200-plus poems published in journals, magazines, and anthologies both online and in print, he resides in the UK, from Manchester, Mark is the author of “In Perpetuity” and “Back on Earth” two books of poems published by Creative Talents Unleashed.

Dylan Poetry Showcase from Elizabeth Cusack

Little Girl

Little girl had an answer
Wasn’t she cute
You bought her a leopard-skin suit

She got the blues
She was too far gone
She wasted it all for you

No worries, darling
There’s plenty of air
Back there somewhere

I hear parrots 
From inside your cage
Shouldn’t you be going somewhere

Her head’s in a cloud
Her hope’s run out
She’s living in the seaweed now

You Know Me

You know me, I’m singing
Way down in lonely town
Feeling the bite
High as a kite
Wanting more of your time
Never being satisfied
Burning fuel like it’s out of style
Waiting for the turn-style
Waiting for the switch in the yard
Waiting for a crossing guard
Waving my plane just out of range

I did not take apart the gate
When love came dancing down
She came in like a ton of bricks
I laid back and took the licks
I did not know there
Could be such joy
I did not understand
Love is like a rubber band
It can snap
It can tear
It can fit anywhere
It can wear thin
It can twist and turn
It can strangle

However hot or overwrought
You may become or be
I am here
Like the geese on the floating sea.

Another Lover

Leave if you will 
The most convenient way
I don’t need it anyway
Who understands the play
Is there anything left to say

Howling at the moon
That won’t make it
One more night in Utah
I can make it
Is that what you’re thinking
Sounds alright
I’m not looking for a fight.

Highway Song

It’s Ten AM
I’m wasted again
I might crawl out of bed
Hit the street
Find something to eat
Write a rhyme
Commit a crime
Not folk rock, but never mind
A real soother
A blues-er, a boozer
Not a loser, a teaser
A pleaser, a honey-dripper
Something to piss-off the masses
Go out and buy cheap sunglasses
Grow out my hair
Till it’s fuzzy and kinkier
Like Ricki or Frankie Lee
It don’t matter, anyhow.

Straight Up

I was straight up against the wall
And I did not let it slide
You want to see some damage
Look at mine

Some hide behind religion
Knocking at your door
But they’ll get you if they can
Then they’ll want some more

I hear any day now
I will be released
I have got a number
Do not misconstrue me

I Contain Rock and Roll Multitudes

Riding shotgun in overdrive 
Little Susie by my side
You make me crazy Miss Lizzie 
The way that you drive
The Jack of Hearts just left town
He’s looking for another clown
Let’s go downtown anyhow
Let’s turn the music way up loud
Your Chevy’s got a brand-new sound
And you’ve got lots of time
Let’s drive this pony into the ground
It’s the fastest way out of town
In the desert of New Mexico
Or against the cliff in old Del Mar
I know where you’re going
And I know where you are
When you have time drop me a line
It’s the same old rhythm, the same old rhyme
I love you baby all the time
It’s the same old highway
It’s the same old sound
It’s the same old way out of town
The demon’s always screaming
There’s no way round
We’re one gearshift from eternity 
And just for a minute we’re looking so good
Let’s slide into another neighborhood
Pretty girls and pretty boys all fall down 
It don’t matter anyhow.

Old Bird

Like that old bird
Like that old flag
Once nearly free
Time wants to fold
Faded and proud
Frayed at the age
Battered around
Bleary and weary
With no way out
Brought to the ground
A train that’s gone
But not for me
I wait for release.

More Bob Dylan Inspired poems from Elizabeth Cusack (Poetry on the Rocks for Lonely Hearts)

Poetry on the Rocks for Lonely Hearts Submissions from Elizabeth Cusack (inspired by Bob Dylan)

Many more poems from Elizabeth Cusack (some Inspired by Bob Dylan)

Poetry Showcase from Elizabeth Cusack

Bio: Elizabeth Cusack is a recovering actress. Ever since playing Rhoda Penmark in “The Bad Seed” as a child, deservedly, she has endeavoured to keep up her end of the bargain. Elizabeth has been blessed with the best of teachers over the years, mostly from the school of hard knocks. She has championed and performed in fringe theatre in America. Elizabeth edits her favourite poet while not otherwise inspired by her muse to write. 

More Bob Dylan Inspired poems from Elizabeth Cusack (Poetry on the Rocks for Lonely Hearts)

Muse Blues, Part 2

You learned who your friends were
In times like those
You walked through the wreckage
With infinite joy
You smiled and said
Whatever pleases you. 

You were beautiful and they were vicious
Screeching at reflections
Until they fell down or fainted.

The smoke filled the rooms
They learned tricks from you
It paid the rent that kept getting higher.

They wrote a story but 
It never included you
You were just there to deliver the goods.

Fourth Street/Joker

You were a sorcerer
You strolled backstage
In your Cuban heels
You were part of the show.

It was vicious —
The stakes were so low
You waited in the wings
Your cup full of poison.

The stalls filled with snakes
The knives came out 
There was no other way out 
So, you took it.

Song and Dance Girl

Referring to his immortal 1965 San Francisco Press Conference in which he said, "I'm a Song and Dance Man".

I never thought spermatozoa was phallic
But there you go
I just thought it was seed.

I won’t sing in singsong for any choir
I won’t raise my voice any higher
I don’t care about the funeral pyre.

I am a song and dance girl
So, build a scaffold and burn me
If it makes you feel prouder.

Slightly Nicer

It’s time to draw the line
Before I fall apart
If it weren’t for the music
I wouldn’t know much
Out on the border
The going gets rough
Don’t ask me for reasons 
I might tell you too much.

Big Hotel

I tried to kill the serpent
His eyes were like an owl
They were big and blue
And they followed you around
No matter what I did 
I couldn’t beat him down.

I had to get out quick
They were coming for the bill 
It was gonna be big 
And when they saw me 
They said, “Well, well, well.”

I had no money and no Cadillac
There was no way to leave
I couldn’t get back
So I stayed in that big hotel
Way downtown.

Dead or alive
I don’t know which
I am still here —
And they still come around
Him and his friends
Looking for a pound.

The lines are long 
The hotel isn’t breezy
You won’t find a friend
There’s no cleaning lady
In the Big Easy.

I Threw It All Away

Early one morning half past four
A stranger knocked up on my door
He brought two albums from 1974
He was crashing but he was alive
I came out to meet him
He was bent over my records
Then he looked up sideways
And saw this sandy-haired girl 
She was very much alive.

He handed me two albums 
One from Clive on Columbia 
Four bad boys from Boston 
The other from The Faces 
Then we walked down the cliff
For the first time since I’d run away
I was feeling alive.

He dug me right away
He said, “Misery enjoys company”
I knew just what he meant
Then he flashed me a pirate smile
We came back up from the beach
He was breathless and I was yearning
He fell down on my bed
When he surfaced my cat was lying on his head.

The stranger said, “I’m the devil, baby
I’m a space traveler, too”
I knew what he said was true
I threw it all away
I moved to the border where I stayed
After seven years I’d seen enough
There was no one even left to bluff
He left matches and a daughter, and that was enough.

Poetry on the Rocks for Lonely Hearts Submissions from Elizabeth Cusack (inspired by Bob Dylan)

Many more poems from Elizabeth Cusack (some Inspired by Bob Dylan)

Poetry Showcase from Elizabeth Cusack

Bio: Elizabeth Cusack is a recovering actress. Ever since playing Rhoda Penmark in “The Bad Seed” as a child, deservedly, she has endeavoured to keep up her end of the bargain. Elizabeth has been blessed with the best of teachers over the years, mostly from the school of hard knocks. She has championed and performed in fringe theatre in America. Elizabeth edits her favourite poet while not otherwise inspired by her muse to write. 

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