An opinion essay in four parts, by Gerard Regan, Connelly Library, La Salle University
It can be argued that lyrics in popular American music before Bob Dylan rarely rose to the level of poetry. While some popular songs might have made poetic allusions to “The Summer Wind” or “Strange Fruit,” many lyrics focused on trite expressions of love or “rockin’ around the clock.” Even Bob Dylan, influenced primarily by the heavily political, message-driven music of the folk scene of the time, started his song writing career as a more basic lyricist, and only sometimes flirted with poetic expression. However, in short time, he moved from imitating Woody Guthrie and traditional blues tropes to writing “Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind/ Down the foggy ruins of time/ Far past the frozen leaves/ The haunted, frightened trees/ Out to the windy beach/ Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow” – a frenetic swirl of words and imagery directly influenced by the Beat school of poets and evoking comparison to T.S. Elliot and Yeats, among others.