Bob Dylan And Elizabeth Bishop

By Larry Fyffe
Whether the singer/songwriter is simply catching the waves breaking on rocky shore of some unconscious Jungian sea, or instead has actually read a particulat poem, in the lyrics of  Bob Dylan, the influence of the emotionally detached poetry of Elizabeth Bishop can be detected:
The art of losing isn't hard to master
So many things seem to be filled with the intent
To be lost that their loss is no disaster
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
Of lost door keys, the hour badly spent
The art of losing isn't hard to master

(Elizabeth Bishop: One Art)
Indirectly expressed in the precise object-oriented poem above, there’s revealed the personal hope of finding ideal happiness on earth before life is lost to death, and the door closed to any possibility of reaching it.
Though thematically very similar, in contrast to Bishop there’s a direct personal, emotionally charged “I”-aspect in the song lyrics below: 
When you think you've lost everything
You find out you can always lose a little more
I'm just going down the road feeling bad
Trying to get to Heaven before they close the door
(Bob Dylan: Trying To Get To Heaven)
Influenced Bishop be by the objective imagery of anti-Confessionalist poets like Marianne Moore. Anti-Confessionisalist poets centre their focus on external things, on objects, not on internal emotions: 
Pink rice-grains, ink-
Bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green
Lilies, and submarine
Toadstools, slide each on the other
All external 
Marks of abuse are present on this
Defiant edifice

(Marianne Moore: The Fish)
More detached from emotionalism than ‘Trying To Get To Heaven’ is the imagery in the song lyric below; yet evoked is the lack of something that’s desired:
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the moustache say, "Jeez, I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seen so cruel

(Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)
A transcendentalism of one sort or another (as in the conscious and subconscious memory of the human mind), seems to linger hidden behind the poetic curtains of the objectivist lyricists regardless of any claims to the contrary, and whether or not they employ the  “I”-word. 
A few years of her early childhood Bishop spends in Great Village, Nova Scotia, from which she is taken away; Elizabeth never forgets that she’s left something behind, but her poetic lyrics, akin to those of Robert Frost, lean in the direction of detached objectivism:
A moose has come out of the impenetrable wood
And stands there, looms rather
In the middle of the road
It approaches, and sniffs at
The bus's hot hood

(Elizabeth Bishop: The Moose)
Methinks it’s very like an iceberg:
It's weight the iceberg dares
Upon a shifting stage, and stands and stares

(Elizabeth Bishop: The Imaginary Iceberg)
While the song lyrics of Bob Dylan often tip quite heavily toward the side of emotional expressionism:
If you're travelling in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Please say 'hello' to the one who lives there
For she once was a true love of mine

(Bob Dylan: Girl From The North Country)


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