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« Renovation Redux (by Malachi Black) | Main | Prosper and Long Live [a gesture suggestion for depression by Jennifer Michael Hecht] »

February 24, 2010


Hi, Lawrence. I'm a big Bob Dylan fan and love The Best American Poetry series. What a nice surprise to see this blog entry when googling the name of the new blog I'm happy I have started.

I hope you'll be able to check out "Two of Words" some time. Yours is a blog I definitely hope to return to.

Thanks for the read.

Terrific post, Larry. Dylan's rhymes are underrated, and the examples from "Positively Fourth Street" show how subtle he can be. The rhyme of "in with / begin with" shows that there are more links than met the eye between Dylan and a Larry Hart or Ira Gershwin.

Thanks for the kind words, Tabitha, and I will check out "Two of Words."

You're so right, David. There's a definite connection between Dylan and the talented people who wrote the lyrics that make up the Great American Song Book.

Excellent as usual, Lawrence. Especially early in his career, Dylan used triple rhymes (sometimes within a line) to hammer home the message.

Here's a stanza from Like A Rolling Stone:

You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

And from Mr. Tambourine Man, look at this:

Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

You've got sand, hand, stand, branded rhyming plus feet, meet, street, -- also sleeping and dreaming work together.


Thanks, Lee. Your examples are perfect.

Surely any discussion of Dylan's rhyming MUST at least mention a very amusing example of it
( remembering what a hilarious writer Dylan can be ).
I refer ( and I presume it will be obvious once I mention it )
to the start of 'Black Diamond Bay' :

Up on the white veranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat.

On the face of it you might assume that a rhyme involving
a conjunction AND an article would be downright 'illegal'.
Certainly it is unusual ( and possibly unique ) even for Dylan.
Is there even a technical term for it ?
( It is only 'half' 'feminine' . )
And you might discuss in detail the effect of the rhyme
on the 'Panama hat' :
coming after the 'climax' of the rhyme it is 'anti-climactical'
and all but beside the point.

listen to "Angelina" from "The Bootleg Series Vols 1-3" and tell me he's not the greatest rhymer of all time.

Keeping in mind that the songs on DESIRE, where "Black Diamond Bay" comes from, were co-written with Jacques Levy, they still contain some of the most seductive, subtle rhyming in his catalog:

One day they blew him down in a clam bar in New York
He could see it comin’ through the door as he lifted up his fork
He pushed the table over to protect his family
Then he staggered out into the streets of Little Italy

In the hands of less-talented writers, rhyming "New York" with "fork" would just end up sounding ridiculous.

"Black Diamond Bay" has some extraordinarily complex rhymes, especially in the last verse. This is how it's arranged on his official website, but arguments can made:

I was sittin’ home alone one night in L.A.,
Watchin’ old Cronkite on the seven o’clock news.
It seems there was an earthquake that
Left nothin’ but a Panama hat
And a pair of old Greek shoes.
Didn’t seem like much was happenin’,
So I turned it off and went to grab another beer.
Seems like every time you turn around
There’s another hard-luck story that you’re gonna hear
And there’s really nothin’ anyone can say
And I never did plan to go anyway
To Black Diamond Bay.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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