The Song of a Poet: Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and the Boundaries of Literature.

14th November 2016 ¦ Aran Ward Sell.

‘Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in’

These lines have been quoted reverently since Leonard Cohen’s death. The maudlin yet shimmering sentiment is powerfully poetic, and no less so for being sung. Cohen’s ancient, weighty timbre does not dilute his words; it fuels them. He enters a long tradition of revered bards, from Homer to Burns, whose poetry has been performed or sung. No-one argues that because Shakespeare’s plays are performed, they are merer than Literature. And yet, when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016, an equivalent objection was raised against his songwriting.

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