Life, Death & Lumberjacks -- Bob Dylan, Poet

10.15.2004 | David Walley | Literature, Music | 2 Comments

With Dylan’s memoirs now coming out, we thought we’d share this blast from the past — Our David Walley’s review of Dylan’s Tanantula, first published in Zygote magazine somtime in 1971.

“there are only a few things that exist:
Boogie Woogie-highpowered frogs-Nashville
Blues-harmonicas walking-80 moons &
sleeping midgets-there are only three things
that continue: Life-Death & the lumberjacks
are coming”
— Bob Dylan

Tarantula: twenty-five year-old visions of reality/letters to himself and posterity, now here in some other form from miracle xerox. Tarantula—visions of Aretha, soul singer in 78 pages of ramblings through the muse. Well, yes they may have caught his soul on cellophane and plastic, and the moving finger having writ, moves on, but this was suppressed by the author and the publisher, dived down into posterity timezone to return years later as underground masterpiece of twisted mind and agonized feelings—

Dylan, the man, the twenty-five year-old genius struggling with precocious knowledge that “one person’s truth is always someone else’s lie”, writing a book which he knew was jus’ goofing, sir, honest, but populated with brilliant wit, album-jacket characters from freaked reality. Fragments connected tissue-thin to Coincidence, and then Beauty, well she stood behind him and laughed into her beer while Muse, in tattered cloak turned headstands on the page…Fragments , connect, separate, titled as trips, bad dreams, paranoia, advice to self and posterity. The moving fingers writ and moved on to Woodstock, “Blond on Blond”, “Highway 61” was revisited then, worked on from 1964-66 and shelved—too much hubris for Mr. D. tho was some spark not fanned…

Dylan, without benefit of clergy and A.J. Weberman, on the move through twisted famedreams, acid visions populated with amphetamine figures: Lonzo, Murph the Surf, The Senator, Jesus Christ, Suzy Q., The Good Samaritan, James Cagney all make cameo appearances, like reading the back of “Highway 61 Revisited” and early poetry, written by a student who walls at U. Minn couldn’t contain. References, cryptic to inside out Dylan Thomas, Joyce, ee cummings…Dylan inveterate punster, funster always reversing roles and then eating them whole…

Structure amorphous, titles and raps ended with poetry /letter /missile to futurity, signed with names of imagination, “compa”, “wimp, your friendly pirate”, “mouse”, “willy purple”, “pig”, lazy henry”, or “truman peyote”…poking fun, crying, masturbatory wordplaying, for friends with obscure references too trivial to recount. Some say there’s many hundreds of pages somewhere in someone’s basement, even mr. d. avers to the fact, but won’t crack a smile, like his mother ought to know why them new-fangled critics beat their heads out on his verse, and tarantula is something else for them to digest, not really outside for the multitudes to see, no, not really. Filled with messages outside to the other side of bob dylan,”…look down oh great romantic, you who can predict from every position, you who know that everybody’s not a job or a nero or a j.c. penny…look down and seize your gambler’s passion, make high wire experts into heroes, presidents into con men.”

Dylan knowing with twenty-five year old precocity what he knew, the anguish of it…and recognition of basic truths, tho couched in symbolism,”…compared to the big day when you discover lord byron shooting craps in the morgue with his pants off and he’s eating a picture of jean-paul belmondo & he offers you a piece of greenlightbulb & you realize that nobody’s told you about this, & that life is not so simple after all”, and that fragment closed with another letter in form of verse to reader or himself:

“for this chosen few, writing for any what
a drag it gets to be. writing one cpt. you.
you, daisy mae, who are not even of the masses
…funny thing, tho, is that youre not even
dead yet…i will nail my words to this paper,
an fly them onto you. an forget about them…
thank you for the time.
youre kind.
love and kisses
your double
Silly Eyes (in airplane trouble)”

Portraits arrange themselves in fluid style, vinyl-words like they used to be before the ACCIDENT, in another country where he was so fragrant, fresh and warm: “Poor optical muse known as uncle and carrying a chunk of wind & trees from the meadow”, or “green maggie of profanity slapstick & her cast of seven coats shining & fighting the milkmaids & high whining barndoor slam-heavens!” onewordphrase adjectives of names “crowbar jane”, “phombus pucker”, “jacks of spades” or “vivaldi of the coin laundry”…the secret reader is in the free-flowing ideas like spaghetti on typewritten pages and the scansion of that flow—sit down at typewriter and mix up all that kafka, joyce, ee cummings, god, st. anselm, augustine, rufus thomas, and that hitch-hiking angel, jack kerouac/gregory corso— write on. There’s more but now to end with mr d’s own obituary written half-mad and waiting for deadline time from the fame machine:

“here lies bob dylan
demolished by Vienna politeness-
which will now claim to have invented him
the cool people can
now write Fugues about him
& Cupid can now kick over his kerosene lamp-
bob dylan-filled by a discarded Oedipus
who turned
around
to investigate a ghost
& discovered that
the ghost too
was more than one person.”



The ghosts of electricity
Howl in the bones of her face
10.19.2004 | S Sylvester

That is a terrific summarizing of "Tarantula", which as a 38-year Dylanologist (or at least Dylan junkie), I must admit to having read every word of. And I'm still waiting for those forthcoming lumberjacks.

Existentially,
BRYAN STYBLE/San Diego

06.8.2010 | Bryan Styble

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