Nobel Committee: Bob Dylan ‘Changed Our Idea of What Poetry Can Be’
Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden Saturday, where the Swedish Academy’s Horace Engdahl explained in the presentation speech why the legendary singer-songwriter was given an award usually reserved for authors, poets and playwrights.
In the speech, Engdahl said Dylan “dedicated himself body and soul to 20th century American popular music, the kind played on radio stations and gramophone records for ordinary people, white and black: protest songs, country, blues, early rock, gospel, mainstream music.”
“Recognizing that revolution by awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize was a decision that seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious. But does he get the prize for upsetting the system of literature? Not really,” Engdahl said. “There is a simpler explanation, one that we share with all those who stand with beating hearts in front of the stage at one of the venues on his never-ending tour, waiting for that magical voice.”
The Swedish Academy concluded their speech by taking note of the critics who opposed Dylan’s Nobel Prize win.
“By means of his oeuvre, Bob Dylan has changed our idea of what poetry can be and how it can work,” Engdahl said. “If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don’t write, they dance and they sing.”
Following the speech, Patti Smith performed Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
Read the Nobel committee’s award presentation speech for Dylan below:
What brings about the great shifts in the world of literature? Often it is when someone seizes upon a simple, overlooked form, discounted as art in the higher sense, and makes it mutate. Thus, at one point, emerged the modern novel from anecdote and letter, thus arose drama in a new age from high jinx on planks placed on barrels in a marketplace, thus songs in the vernacular dethroned learned Latin poetry, thus too did La Fontaine take animal fables and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales from the nursery to Parnassian heights. Each time this occurs, our idea of literature changes.
In itself, it ought not to be a sensation that a…