So, my officemate Kyle and I decided to do a culture swap. He’ll suggest a musician I ordinarily wouldn’t listen to, and I’ll do the same. This has become a fascinating experiment because so often we—artists, regular people—don’t work outside our comfort zones. I was born at what some would consider the cultural peak of Hip Hop, the 1980s. And so my awareness about what I think to be culturally my own or even accessible has been negotiated and re-negotiated with this assignment. Can someone who loves Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder and Prince appreciate a Bob Dylan? Why, of course.

Kyle often references Bob Dylan as a poet. And this naturally made me curious since I consider myself a poet. Armed with three very different Bob Dylan albums, I’m still undecided about whether I dig this musician, this man, who seems larger than life just listening to my officemate’s frequent references.

Once you get past his scratchy, off-putting voice, a poet does appear. The pauses and cadences in the lyrics all remind me of some of my favorite beatnik poets of the 1950s. There’s a sweet melancholy in Dylan. A tortured artist. A rare breed of musician. Only there’s something distant about this sound. I’m fascinated by this “different” sound and want to learn more about the life and times of Dylan.

Signed,

Abdul Ali

If you have a Dylan story to share, or a song of his to recommend, please drop me a line at thecarousel@writer.org