Sunday, October 16, 2016

On Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature and Why Robert Smith is a Far Better Poet



This week it was announced that Bob Dylan won the nobel prize for literature. This came as a surprise to many seeing how the award appears based on his song lyrics for having “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

I, for one, gave pause and rubbed my chin.

I have no issue with Dylan getting the award as some of my other author friends. His lyrics are poetical and speak to the human condition in pointed folkish terms. Raw emotion flows through them and in my view great poetry cannot be created without it.

There are certainly others more deserving than Dylan, however. In the music field alone Robert Smith of The Cure penned a much greater body of work that towers over that of Dylan's.

In terms of volume (not that sheer number has anything to do with literary merit), Dylan has written around 375 songs. Robert Smith has given us around 150 with The Cure and his side projects. Dylan has more than doubled his output.

Many times Dylan clings to didactic poetical methods in his songs by delivering a moral. These preachy songs include "Trust Yourself" and "The Times, They are a Changing." There is nothing didactic in hardly any song by Robert Smith. He tells it like it is and leaves moral implications to the reader as any good poet should.

A host of Dylan songs are junior-highish in their over-handedness and chintz rhyming doggerel. Consider these lines from "Hurricane" (1976):

“How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed
To live in a land
Where justice is a game”


Now read the deep image lyrics of one of Robert Smith's water-themed songs "The Same Deep Water":

Kiss me goodby
Pushing out before I sleep
Can't you see I try
Swimming the same deep water as you is hard
The shallow drowned lose less than we
You breathe the strangest twist upon your lips
And we shall be together
And we shall be together

Kiss me goodbye
Bow your head and join with me
And face pushed deep reflections meet
The strangest twist upon your lips

And disappear the ripples clear
And laughing break against your feet
And laughing break the mirror sweet
So we shall be together
So we shall be together

Kiss me goodbye pushing out before I sleep
It's lower now and slower now
The strangest twist upon your lips
But I don't see and I don't feel

But tightly hold up silently
My hands before my fading eyes
And in my eyes your smile
The very last thing before I go
The very last thing before I go
The very last thing before I go

I will kiss you, I will kiss you
I will kiss you forever on nights like this
I will kiss you, I will kiss you
And we shall be together


A number of critics cite "Forever Young" as the finest of Dylan's lyrics. Do you feel there is a certain tongue-in-cheek plonk being delivered here? You be the judge:

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young


Robert Smith also addressed the physical world in "The Hanging Garden" where he again delights our Gothic sensibilities:

Creatures kissing in the rain
Shapeless in the dark again
In the hanging garden please don't speak
In the hanging garden no one sleeps

Catching halos on the moon
Gives my hands the shapes of angels
In the heat of the night the animals scream
In the heat of the night walking into a dream

Fall fall fall fall
Into the walls
Jump jump out of time
Fall fall fall fall
Out of the sky
Cover my face as the animals cry
In the hanging garden

Creatures kissing in the rain
Shapeless in the dark again
In the hanging garden change the past
In the hanging garden wearing furs and masks

Fall fall fall fall
Into the walls
Jump jump out of time
Fall fall fall fall
Out of the sky
Cover my face as the animals die
In the hanging garden

In the hanging garden

There is little comparison between the two and the world should take notice. Bob Dylan's overriding limitations as a poet is that the New York School of thought is tied to him like an anchor when it used to be his hot air balloon. Robert Smith's poetry rarely knows time or place and for that it should live forever.

AndrewBarger.com

#DylanNobelPrize #RobertSmithPoetry




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