In a recent review in Stride Magazine, M.C. Caseley discusses Timothy Hampton’s Bob Dylan’s Poetics:How the Songs Work, just released this spring. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:
“Hampton’s approach, as his title suggests, is to focus on Dylan’s ‘Poetics’, that is, how he is situated in relation to his songs, as his career progresses. If you buy this book seeking biographical revelations or exhaustive trawls through bootlegs, you will be disappointed. It is a fairly literary study, but not dry, and as a long-standing admirer of Dylan, I was genuinely enlightened by many of Hampton’s carefully developed ideas.
He begins by defining carefully his focus: ‘the intersection of lyric, music and performance’ and how Dylan’s songs work. Because of Dylan’s stature, this means taking on American history, nuances of folk and blues genres and working through a cache of songs already encrusted with familiarity and importance. Hampton is up to this, however. He sets out (with some judicious aid from Dylan’s own Chronicles) how Dylan differed from the other denizens of Greenwich Village in 1961 and 1962, borrowing stances and attitudes from Woody Guthrie and others to forge something new from collaging them together: in other words, why people are still writing books about Robert Zimmerman rather than Dave Van Ronk. He illuminates how a folk standard like ‘No More Auction Block for Me’ can eventually give birth to something wildly more affecting and ambitious like ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, and how some of these stylistic breakthroughs allow Dylan to move on to writing songs like ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’.”