How Does It Feel? How Does It Feel?
Earlier this month, the Swedish Academy announced the Nobel Prize in Literature would go to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. In making the announcement, permanent secretary Sara Danius credited Dylan with “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Of course, Dylan has been writing and performing songs for five decades, including many that numerous other artists have recorded much more sonorously – Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower, the Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn, and Adele’s Make You Feel My Love all suit the listening ear better than his recordings. But this decision hinged upon the Academy’s view that Dylan “is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition,” like Homer and Sappho of Greek antiquity, who also wrote poetic texts to be performed with instruments.
Naturally, reactions among the literature community varied to the Swedish Academy’s decision. While some authors welcomed the news, others responded with snark – Jodi Picoult tweeted “I’m happy for Bob Dylan. #ButDoesThisMeanICanWinAGrammy?”
But to all the negative responses, we can only shrug and say, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. Congratulations to Bob Dylan on his hard-earned Nobel, and in his honor, we’re running our piece from 2013, The Times They Aren’t A’Changin’. Re-reading it now, some of the insights seem as accurate today as they did then, though perhaps not as timeless as a Dylan lyric.