An opinion essay in four parts, by Gerard Regan, Connelly Library, La Salle University
This is the first time that the Academy has awarded the prize to a person who primarily wrote their poetry to be sung, but this is hardly the first time that poetry was delivered in song. In fact, the development of poetry was quite the opposite. Poetry from Homer through to the Troubadours was always sung. Stories and histories passed on through word of mouth developed meter and rhyme as an aid to memory and they were sung from generation to generation. It was not until the printing press and the subsequent rise in literacy throughout the centuries that followed that poetry began to be primarily composed for reading from the page. In 1901, when Sully Prudhomme was awarded the first Nobel Prize in literature for his poetry, modern poetry was in its infancy and sitting and reading poetry was an actual form of popular entertainment. One hundred and sixteen years later, the way that most people consume poetic verse is through popular music and many people are again creating great poetic compositions in popular song. This is due in no small part to the “new poetic expressions” created by Bob Dylan throughout his illustrious career.