The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

There was some controversy over Dylan’s Nobel Prize. Are song lyrics literature? That’s more the question than whether or not Dylan’s worked deserved the prize. But in talking about literature, we’re also talking about poetry, and that seems to cut the bullshit off at the neck. Songs are poems set to music, and there really isn’t much of an argument to make against it:

“Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.” -Billy Wyman, The New York Times

Dylan wrote about the problems within the world he lived in such a way that their relevance continues:

” … Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial

Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while

But Mona Lisa must’ve had the highway blues

You can tell by the way she smiles … ”

-Bob Dylan, Visions Of Johanna

It looks like poetry, it sounds like poetry.

It’s probably poetry.

So Dylan won it, and there was some argument over that, but let’s talk about whether Dylan’s body of work deserved the prize over others: I have no idea. Music has taken such a different turn lately, in that the “sound” is what entertains us, and less so the message. Many will disagree, but music is something to take you away, to free you with rhythm and noise. The truth is, if Dylan had written those same lyrics down in a poetry anthology, we may well have never read them, glorified them, nor seen them awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. So, was Dylan awarded the Nobel Prize for his poetry, or for his fame? Good luck.

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