I’ll Sing My Song Like A Rebel

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.

Joan Baez

The Bob Dylan Dream

by Joyce Sutphen

So here is one of the best dreams I’ve
ever had: I am in New York City,

and everything is closed tight except
for one door that is wide open and seems

inviting, so I go through and up the
stairs to a room with wood floors and

a window seat where Bob Dylan is waiting
for me, and we have a long talk about

love and poetry, and afterwards we
stand up and fly over the Village, which

is quiet until we hear some music
a few blocks away so we fly there, and

it’s the Jefferson Airplane Marching Band!
Tell me-does it get much better than that?

Dylan and Baez met in New York City in 1961. Their artistic and romantic attraction was instantaneous and blazed brightly for the next 4 years. But emotions that combustible aren’t always sustainable and theirs burned itself out by 1965. By the end, Baez wanted to continue to play a role in the civil rights movement while Dylan wanted to evolve as an artist and not be limited by audience expectations. Each gave the other something before their parting. Baez would continue to perform Dylan’s legacy of political songs, while Baez bestowed a softer side to Dylan’s trajectory. Baez brought political relevance to Dylan’s lyrics and music through her artistry while Dylan absorbed Baez’s artistic and personal expression in ways that would nudge his muse in a new direction, from indignation towards beauty. Baez had absorbed some of his righteous anger while sheltering some of it from Dylan. 

Dylan shared his perspective on his relationship with Baez and her influence on his life and music in Poem to Joanie. I have shared an excerpt below, a moving tribute to Baez on his understanding of ‘beauty’ and its significance in his art.

Poem To Joanie (Excerpt)

by Bob Dylan

So, once more it’s winter again
An’ that means I’ll wait ’til spring
T’ ramble back t’ where I kneeled
When I first heard the ore train sing
An’ pulled the ground up by its roots
But this time I won’t use my strength
T’ pass the time yankin’ grass
While I’m waitin’ for the train t’ sound
No next time’ll be a different day
For the train might be there when I come
An’ I might wait hours for the cars t’ pass
An’ then as the echo fades
I’ll bend down an’ count the strands a grass
But one thing that’s bound t’ be
Is that instead a pullin’ at the earth
I’ll jus’ pet it as a friend
An’ when that train engine comes near
I’ll nod my head t’ the big brass wheels
An’ say “howdy” t’ the engineer
An’ yell that Joanie says hello
An’ watch the train man scratch his head
An’ wonder what I meant by that
An’ I’ll stand up an’ remember when
A rock was flung by a devil child
An’ I’ll walk my road somewhere between
The unseen green an’ the jet – black train
An’ I’ll sing my song like a rebel wild
For it’s that I am an’ can’t deny
But at least I’ll know not t’ hurt
Not t’ push
Not t’ ache
An’ God knows … not t’ try –

And Forget That Blue Was Everywhere

joyce Sutphen
Joyce Sutphen – Poet Laureate of Minnesota

From The 6th Floor

By Joyce Sutphen

I’m sitting in the air, where there once was
nothing; now I’m looking down on people
walking on a plaza which was never
there. I could be sitting on a steeple

(just as likely) but I’m not; I’m walking
through the wind—where it goes, I do not know.
Once I saw clear through these walls; shocking
now to think of it, how the world is so

capricious that it changes air to brick
and cloud to window sill. Everything
gives way to progress—such a rhetoric
of loss, such a way to stop us singing.

If they build it, we will climb into the air
and forget that blue was everywhere.

Maybe I like Joyce Sutphen’s poetry so much, because we have so much in common. Sutphen is Minnesota’s second Poet Laureate, having been appointed by outgoing Governor Mark Dayton in 2011. She is a long time resident of St. Peter, just upstream and down the road a little in the Minnesota River valley from Mankato, where I lived for 13 years.

Sutphen’s work expresses a voice I recognize, a Midwestern, Minnesotan love of place, love of people, love of life. It is a less harried voice and maybe a slightly softer voice, than poets that come from harsher places and crueller times. Sutphen writes in many styles and sonnets make up only a small portion of her work. I enjoy that she uses the structure of sonnets as part of her love affair with life, but truth be told, I have a short attention span for long poems. I like a poet that can get something conveyed in twenty lines or less, and even better if its fourteen.

I particularly relate to her poem At The Moment.  At the moment I have stopped thinking about love as well, stopped considering that love is realistic or even possible. New relationships get terribly complicated in your late 50’s and my circumstances make it even more so.

I am contemplating getting a cat. It is about as much intimacy as  I am capable at the moment in my one bedroom condo of a life. A cat wise enough to stand gaurd over me and interview any future prospective entanglements. By getting a cat, I’m sending a declaration to any possible future lover; love my dependent, if you’re going to love me. And if you don’t like cats or are allegeric to cats, we aren’t going to get along, so please move along, before one of us starts growling or howling.  However, a cat would have warded off all the love I received in the past four years.  It’s absence was just what I needed then, and its presence is just what I need now.

At The Moment

by Joyce Sutphen

Suddenly, I stopped thinking about Love,
after so many years of only that,
after thinking that nothing else mattered.

And what was I thinking of when I stopped
thinking about Love? Death, of course—what else
could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?

I thought about how far away Death once
had seemed, how unexpected that it could
happen to someone I knew quite well,

how impossible that this should be the
normal thing, as natural as frost and
winter. I thought about the way we’d aged,

how skin fell into wrinkles, how eyes grew
dim; then (of course) my love, I thought of you.