Language That He'd Use
"Wish I was Bob Dylan," Robert Creeley wrote in the late 1960s, a time when this seemed to be nearly everybody's wish—apparently including anthologized poets whose confinement to print gave them good reason to envy Dylan's greater immediacy and perceived social relevance. In the same poem ("In London," not one of the epigrammatic poems for which Creeley is famous but a series of notebook jottings whose loose tongue seems the result of Dylan's influence coupled with Allen Ginsberg's, drugs, and a dilly of a midlife crisis), Creeley also wished he could hear Dylan's "Tears of Rage" sung by the sweeter-voiced Joan Baez. This could be taken to mean that Creeley was one of many who admired Dylan, even during his greatest period of influence and popularity, more as a songwriter than as a performer—more as a voice than as a singer. If so, it hardly amounted to a slight. "He's got a subtle mind," Creeley decided in the poem, for all intents and purposes embracing Dylan as a fellow wordsmith, perhaps even a fellow poet.
I happened upon "In London" while paging through Creeley in search of another poem I recalled reading years ago, which darted to mind as I listened last fall to Dylan's Live 1966 (Columbia/Legacy C2K 65759), a concert recording from a period when he stood accused of betraying folk music—and of jeopardizing such folkie ideals as nuclear disarmament and Negro voter registration for the sin of cupping his