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Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan

POEMS WITHOUT TITLES

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Bob Dylan
Poems Without Titles
A rare, early collection of poems written by Bob Dylan whilst at the University Of Minnesota, 1960, the 16 pages of poems hand-written in pencil, some showing portions of the text which have been erased and written over, with title page inscribed in blue ink POEMS WITHOUT TITLES, the majority signed Dylan or Dylanism, many of the poems showing Dylan's witty and sometimes coarse sense of humour, some being abstract compositions and some referring to aspects of his life in Minnesota, including references to Dylan's desire to quit smoking, friendships and relationships with various women and references to influences on his music, excerpts include:
-- I have to quit smoking But I can't quit smoking I love to smoke Almost as much As I love to love;
-- I search the depths of my soul for an answer But there is no answer Because there is no question And there is no time;
-- I thought I saw Humphrey pissing Into a hot bowl of tomatoe
[sic] soup And as he pissed I watched And as I watched I waited And as I waited I saw ALL society...He pissed beer; he pissed rum He pissed whisky; he pissed wine The deep rich, red wine That he drank only the night before ... Then he pissed in his car - And I felt like an Idiot child trying to read James Joyce in the dark Then from a deep dark commitment He pissed for forty days and forty nights - And a great war was declared And all society starved to death And then as suddenly as he started pissing He stopped pissing And said "Good Shabos";
-- Within this world Of tormented rush Of bastard daughters Of Mother's sons Of Mr Society And of dirty little mouths And of King Clocks And of green pieces of eight That can buy Anything in sight Comes The Ethnic Odetta;
-- I thought she Was Hip When we sat and Drank coffee And I flipped when she recited All of Prufrock By heart And when she Clued me in On all the squares Down in Lexington ... I puked Down her sweater And Ordered Some more Coffee;
-- A dark haired Einstein Sits And Strums And We all Sing Bald Moutain
[sic] Seeking Expression;
-- Once there was Judy And she said Hi to me When no one else Could take the Time...But she broke me Up When she didn't Write back and I died for a year - Seela And then there was Ione Who wore a Ring on her Left hand...my mind went Insane Every time I saw her - Seela Then there was Carol Who had tits Like headlights On a fire engine And a face like Helen ... she'd rape my feelings ... Then there was Barbara Her parents liked me And I liked them But I loved Barbara more...Then came another Judy She had a long Pony Tail And wanted Some day To be an Actress ... Now there's Judy again And my Circe starts Over ... I don't fit in anymore I'm Lost And my trouble is I know it;
-- I heard this "Let's All Sing Joshua now And we'll really have A grand time And after Joshua We'll do Another one That everyone Knows" And I cut out;
-- The motorcycle leans The motorcycle swerves The motorcycle drags The motorcycle doesn't Give a damn Who gets his nuts Stomped on The motorcycle doesn't Give a Damn About old Granny in the middle Of Hennipen Avenue Or of little baby In his play pen The motorcycle just don't Give a damn About anything
, 17pp.

Lot Essay

Poems Without Titles is not just the earliest Dylan manuscript ever to have been offered for auction, but also a highly significant addition to his canon as a writer. It dates from his formative time at the University of Minnesota, which he began to attend as a freshman in the fall of 1959, and left (after increasingly sporadic attendance) at the end of 1960. He arrived at the college as Robert Zimmerman, a shy 18-year-old from upstate Hibbing, and left as Bob Dylan, a folksinger and aspiring songwriter ready to challenge the leading lights of the Greenwich Village folk scene in New York.
The young Zimmerman made an entirely conventional entrance to University life, joining the Jewish fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu in September 1959. Within a few months, however, he had turned his back on this conformity, leaving the fraternity house and preferring to spend his time in Minnesota's bohemian Dinkytown district. He became a regular visitor, and subsequently performer, at the Ten O'Clock Scholar, a small nightspot which attracted the city's community of beat poets, folksingers and other outsiders.
In keeping with his new persona, Zimmerman hit upon a fresh identity. By spring 1960, he had reinvented himself as Bob Dylan, shedding his ties with his family and, to some extent, his Jewish heritage. Several of his Poems Without Titles, however, include familiar yiddish phrases or references (Shalom Alechem, good Shabos, etc.) - something entirely absent from his writing after he arrived in New York in early 1961.
The Poems demonstrate that Dylan had created a literary style to match his change of name and demeanor. Heavily influenced by the beat poets, such as Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, they have a casual humor and a delight in vulgarity that wouldn't be seen again in his work until his so-called 'Basement Tapes' songs of 1967. Despite some unsurprising adolescent earnestness, there is a lightness of touch about this work that looks forward to his witty talking-blues songs of the early 1960s. There are even hints, in the absurdity of the poem I thought I saw Humphrey pissing and the lines about A dark haired Einstein, of the free-flowing imagination that underpinned his classic Highway 61 Revisited album in 1965.
Yet the Poems Without Titles are also grounded in Dylan's daily life at the University of Minnesota. There are references to local landmarks and streets, such as Washington Avenue and Hennipen Avenue, and to many of his classmates and friends - notably a long poem recounting (in suitably exaggerated style) Dylan's romantic history. The latter piece begins by describing 'Judy', who is presumably the teenage Judy Rubin, quoted by several Dylan biographers as his first love.
With their verbal dexterity, personal resonances and heavy use of irony, Poems Without Titles offer a remarkable glimpse of the birth of a literary - soon to be musical - personality. They illustrate where the young Bob Dylan had come from, and where he was going, to become arguably America's most important songwriter of the 20th century.
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