Professor’s BBC Interview Broadcast Internationally
Col. Gordon Ball addresses last year’s Poetry Symposium. -- VMI File Photo by Kevin Remington.
LEXINGTON, Va., Oct. 6, 2011 – The answer, my friend, is … or was the topic of lively speculation – in every sense of the word.
Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature?
Well, not this time round.
The prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, but only after online betting with odds in Dylan’s favor as high as 5/1 and much intellectual debate among scholars around the world, including VMI’s own Col. Gordon Ball.
Ball, professor of English and fine arts, was interviewed last night by the BBC for a segment on The World Today, which is broadcast around the world and which was heard locally overnight.
Dylan, he said, meets the “traditional criteria of outstanding idealism and benefiting mankind.” And seeing Dylan as the author of great literature, rather than merely as a pop-culture icon, is not, according to Ball, as odd a proposition as one might think.
“Poetry and music have a long connection, and poetry was first referred to as song,” he said. “And it is thought by some scholars of ancient Greek that Homer sang.”
Ball was contacted by the BBC because he himself nominated Dylan for the prize several times between the years 1996 and 2004, prompted the first time by American beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Earlier yesterday, Ball described how Ginsberg was asked to nominate Dylan by two Dylan fans, who then launched a campaign in his favor that included a press conference in London. Ball said that although many Dylan supporters turned up, the event was bypassed by the press.
In the BBC interview, Ball acknowledged that the award could certainly go to a poet more in need of the publicity than Dylan, adding, however, that some good would be gotten of a Dylan win:
“I would hope that recognizing him would expand the sense of poetry that is available in terms of the prize since it generally exists only on the page. … I hope discussion of it expands our appreciation of poetry.”
Ball’s argument for awarding the prize to Dylan is embodied in an essay, “Dylan and the Nobel,” published in the journal Oral Tradition. A new version of the article will appear in the forthcoming The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University of Tennessee Press, 2012). Ball also has a new book in the works on Ginsberg, one of his primary areas of scholarly interest. Titled East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg, the book is due out at the end of this year from Counterpoint Press.
The interview with Ball can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p00kgwhn.