Bob Dylan, 75, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Doing this, the Swedish Academy dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels. “Bob Dylan is in the 2 percent club of songwriters whose lyrics are interesting on the page, even without the harmonica and the guitar and his very distinctive voice.
I think he does qualify as poetry,” one of the commentators, ” the poet Billy Collins, said. Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the 18-member Swedish Academy, called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” and compared him to Homer and Sappho. Dylan was only 22 when he performed at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, singing “When the Ship Comes In,” with Joan Baez. Giles Harvey described Bob Dylan in 2010 saying: “Dylan grew increasingly frustrated with what he came to regard as the pious sloganeering and doctrinaire leftist politics of the folk milieu.” He “began writing a kind of visionary nonsense verse, in which the rough, ribald, lawless America of the country’s traditional folk music collided with a surreal ensemble of characters from history, literature, legend, the Bible, and many other places besides.” Mr. Dylan’s many honors include Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe awards. He was also awarded was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.