Bob Dylan, Bristol 1966 by brizzle born and bred, under a Creative Commons licence
Some questions are old because they refuse to die. We are heading towards a half century of argument over Bob Dylan’s status, if any, as a poet. Not only is the jury still out, it seems to have fled the building, brawling each step of the way.
Some people can’t see the problem. John Berryman, for one, said that 'of course' Dylan was a poet (and an abomination). Allen Ginsberg, first of the literary groupies, was brought to tears by the verses and the possibilities of 'A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall'.
Robert Lowell meanwhile judged – with no possibility of appeal – that Dylan, an 'alloy', could manage lines of poetry, but not entire poems. The singer also required the 'crutch' of his guitar, said a poet leaning on a pen. Why the use of an instrument counted as a criterion was not explained.