Click Image to Visit the Pecan Grove Press Web Page for Poetry from Paradise Valley


Poetry From Paradise Valley

Pecan Grove Press has released an anthology of poems, a sampling of works published in Valparaiso Poetry Review during its first decade, from the original 1999-2000 volume to the 2009-2010 volume.

Poetry from Paradise Valley includes a stellar roster of 50 poets. Among the contributors are a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a winner of the Griffin International Prize, two Pulitzer Prize winners, two National Book Award winners, two National Book Critics Circle winners, six finalists for the National Book Award, four finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and a few dozen recipients of other honors, such as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Readers are encouraged to visit the Poetry from Paradise Valley page at the publisher's web site, where ordering information about the book can be found.

Best Books of Indiana 2011: Finalist. Judges' Citation: "Poetry from Paradise Valley is an excellent anthology that features world-class poetry, including the work of many artists from the Midwest, such as Jared Carter, Annie Finch, David Baker, and Allison Joseph. It’s an eclectic and always interesting collection where poems on similar themes flow into each other. It showcases the highest caliber of U. S. poetry."
—Indiana Center for the Book, Indiana State Library

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bob Dylan: Forever Young

Last week my wife brought home for me a copy of the current Rolling Stone magazine, featuring Bob Dylan on the cover and with a list of “The 70 Greatest Dylan Songs” chosen by a select panel, including Douglas Brinkley, Jonathan Lethem, Greil Marcus, Christopher Ricks, and Sean Wilentz among others, accompanied by commentary from various figures—such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bono, Sheryl Crow—attesting to Dylan’s excellence as a songwriter or his presence as a lasting influence on music now nearly a half century since release of his first album. The occasion prompting this attention to Bob Dylan occurs tomorrow (May 24), when the singer/songwriter and cultural icon will celebrate his 70th birthday.

In an introduction to the Rolling Stone piece, Jon Pareles describes characteristics of Dylan’s songwriting: “Bob Dylan’s definitive songs don’t encapsulate one meticulous idea—they contain multitudes: prophecy and hogwash, morality and absurdism, apocalypse and intimacy. He has piercing psychological insights, profound aphorisms and sly punch lines; he has lines like weapons and lines like benedictions.” Commenting upon one of the ways Dylan changed the culture, Pareles states: “Dylan also forced the world to accept the merger of singer and songwriter, even if the singer has a voice that has rarely been pretty.”

My affection for Bob Dylan’s song lyrics has been documented a number of times in my writings, and I certainly felt that I could easily have added another seventy candidates to the Rolling Stone list of Dylan’s greatest songs. As I commented in “Bob Dylan’s Beginning,” a post written on March 19 of 2008 to commemorate the release of Dylan’s debut album: “Supposedly, Bob Dylan’s first album was taped in a few hours on a cold day in November of 1961, and the recording cost less than $500 for Columbia producer John Hammond. Over the decades since that album was released on March 19, 1962, Bob Dylan has continually produced music that has transformed much of American music and had an impact on other areas of American culture. . . .”

In that same article, I discussed my opinion concerning the ongoing debate about whether Dylan ought to be categorized as a poet as well as a songwriter: “Some have suggested Bob Dylan should be regarded as a poet as well. In fact, as British Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion expressed his fondness for Dylan’s poetic language, with ‘Visions of Johanna’ containing his favorite lyrics. Dylan is quoted as considering himself ‘a poet first and a musician second.’ I don’t go so far as to label Dylan a poet because I consider the words in his lyrics already as valuable as any poems when regarded simply as sensational songs, each one existing just as Dylan designed it for his listeners. Moreover, since he often changes the ways he presents the songs in concert and sometimes alters the lyrics, one might contend the songs are meant to be experienced differently every time they are performed, and the static words on a page would not fully represent them. The power and the persuasion of his language can best be experienced with the rhythm and melody contributed by his music, as well as the unique cadence and phrasing placed upon the words by Dylan’s singing.”

In another article, “Bob Dylan on Poets and Poets on Bob Dylan,” I wrote of my appreciation for his contributions: “Bob Dylan has proven to be an enduring and formidable figure in American culture, perhaps the most influential singer-songwriter in the nation’s musical history. Indeed, I frequently have heard fellow poets in the past remark upon the subtle way in which language or rhythm in Dylan’s lyrics has swayed them somewhat in their own writings.”

Indeed, a dozen years ago, when I presented an “Inaugural Lecture” at my university, a speech traditionally delivered to the community upon attaining full academic rank (and later published as an article titled “Writing Poetry: Art, Artifacts, and Articles of Faith,” now also available at my personal web site), I commented in one part of my presentation: “Three writers who have greatly influenced my writing of poetry are Robert Frost, Robert Penn Warren, and Robert Lowell—my literary trinity. The three ‘Bobs’ I like to call them. (My wife insists that if I were complete in my list, I would add Bob Dylan as well.)”

Despite the many social, political, technological, and cultural changes witnessed during the past fifty years, Bob Dylan has remained a constant, continuing an endless world tour and producing memorable songs with each of his more than fifty albums. No matter his actual age, every new album is greeted by fans with an enthusiasm and joy first displayed when the young Dylan (pictured above at his typewriter) released those initial recordings in 1962, and the freshness evident in his youthful approach to songwriting or inventive vocal technique remains, even in the longing for the past and lament over loss sometimes hinted in the language of his later lyrics.

Therefore, on his 70th birthday, a brief sample of lines from Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” seems most appropriate:

May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

[Visitors are also invited to read another article, “Bob Dylan and Billy Collins,” which appeared in One Poet’s Notes in November of 2008]


Maureen said...

Any of us who grew up listening to Dylan can't imagine he's 70. "Forever Young" indeed!

Anonymous said...

So many great songs to choose from. I'd have to go with "Tangled up in Blue", kicking off my favorite Dylan Album, "Blood on the Tracks."

The obscure epic, "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is an little known great from the same album - a rare Dylan "toe-tapper"....for 8+ minutes. A song where he goes from poet to novelist.

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