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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Mint-on-sunday/  Dylan’s songs: A deeper look at the haiku

Dylan’s songs: A deeper look at the haiku

Some examples of the haiku and short essays/deconstructions that I have published so far

Photo: David Gahr/Getty ImagesPremium
Photo: David Gahr/Getty Images

I wrote most of the haiku for Bob Dylan: Haiku 61 Revisited between late 2009 and early 2011. I rewrote most of them in the autumn and winter of 2014. I have been publishing them, a few a day as often as possible, online.

As I go, I have written small essays that sometimes talk about the history of a song, particularly if it’s one that Dylan didn’t write. Some essays take apart the song, providing the component parts that informed the text of the haiku, literally or in spirit. I did this despite my earlier feeling that each haiku should stand alone, without explanation. After all, you don’t look at a painting by Amrita Sher-Gil or Vincent van Gogh with an automatic expectation that there will be a short explanation of its meaning attached to the frame.

I changed my mind for two reasons. One: I can’t expect most people to know hundreds of songs by Bob Dylan. It’s unrealistic, despite how famous he is. And I want people not only to buy my book once I publish it, but to enjoy it. That is unlikely if they are reading haiku about songs they have never heard. Two: I am enjoying writing the essays nearly as much as writing the poems.

Here are some examples of the haiku and short essays/deconstructions that I have published so far:

Gypsy Lou

Elusive girlfriend:

The pursuit of Gypsy Lou

Is a full-time job.

You will need a second girlfriend if you make Gypsy Lou your first. Gypsy is not a reliable life companion. He demonstrates:

“She’s a ramblin’ woman with a ramblin’ mind

Always leavin’ somebody behind.

Hey, ’round the bend

Gypsy Lou’s gone again

Gypsy Lou’s gone again."

The singer searches the country to find her. He tires out his feet. You would too. She’s been to:

- Old Cheyenne

- Denver town

- Wichita

- Arkansas

- Gallus Road, Arlington (I’m assuming this refers to Gallows Road in Fairfax County, Virginia)

- Washington

- Oregon

- Gallus Road (again)

- A Memphis calaboose (prison)

Her itinerary ends in the “calaboose", or “jail". One of the boys she left behind committed suicide.

Gotta Serve Somebody

Whatever your job,

You can choose one manager:

The Devil or God.

Gotta Serve Somebody (see here) makes clear that whatever you choose to do in your life, you are serving one master or the other, and if it’s not God or the Devil, it’s someone else. The argument cuts across class, race and every other way we slice up humanity. Dylan won a Grammy Award for best male rock vocal performance for this song.

Things you could be, while still having to serve somebody:

- Ambassador to England

- Ambassador to France

- Gambler

- Dancer

- Heavyweight champion of the world

- Socialite with a long string of pearls

- Rock ’n’ roll addict

- Drug dealer

- User of women

- Businessman

- Thief

- Doctor

- Chief

- State trooper

- Young Turk

- Executive at a TV network

- Rich

- Poor

- Blind

- Lame

- Expatriate or emigre

- Incognito

- Construction worker

- Mansion inhabitant

- Dome inhabitant

- Gun runner

- Tank seller

- Landlord

- Banker

- Preacher

- City councilman taking bribes

- Barber

- Mistress

- Heir

- Wearer of cotton

- Drinker of whiskey

- Drinker of milk

- Eater of caviar

- Eater of bread

- Someone sleeping on the floor

- Someone sleeping in a bed

To read the rest of the essays, go to bobdylanhaiku61.blogspot.in.

Robert MacMillan is Reuters.com’s editor of global editions. He has worked at the news agency for more than nine years as a reporter and editor. He previously worked at The Washington Post as a website reporter and editor. He lives in New York City.

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Published: 06 Jun 2015, 11:40 PM IST
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