As you may have heard, earlier this year the American singer-songwriter and poet, Bob Dylan, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.’ The secretary of the Swedish academy compared his work to that of Homer and Sappho and expressed hope that the news would be received with joy.

And as expected, Dylan’s Nobel win was greeted with a variety of responses, many were delighted by what they regarded as a long overdue recognition of talent, including President Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen and me, whilst others took a more disapproving stance, claiming that Dylan was fundamentally a musician, not a poet and therefore did not deserve such an accolade.

With that in mind, let us examine the argument put forward by those critics: that Bob Dylan’s songs cannot be considered literature.

Okay, now let’s remind ourselves that some of the earliest forms of poetry were lyric poetry and consider that argument again. In Dylan’s work, words and music are undoubtedly intertwined. It’s poetry written to be performed, to be enhanced by and delivered through music.

Songs such as Mr Tambourine Man’, ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Hard Rain’ draw influence from the spontaneous style of Kerouac and the symbolism of Rimbaud. They display, as Patti Smith puts it, a ‘Rimbaudian mastery of language with a deep understanding of the causes of suffering and ultimately human resilience.’

Hard Rain itself was partly influenced by the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and another Dylan song: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ is widely recognised as the anthem of the 1960s civil rights movement. This goes to show that Dylan’s work is not only poetically accomplished, but also politically nuanced and historically significant. Dylan’s songs have been the soundtrack of the last century and continue to provide truth and influence a new generation of poets.

Bob Dylan has never been a songwriter in the classical sense and is by no means a traditional poet, so it only seems fitting for some to find his brand of literature hard to define and label, but since when has ground breaking art been conventional? There is no doubt that Dylan’s work bears the defining traits of great literature, for over half a century, he has produced lyrical and narrative masterpieces that have defied expectations and set new precedents.

So if Dylan’s Nobel win is hard for some to swallow, then perhaps it’s time for them to realise that the times are a-changing, time to realise that literature is dynamic and boundless and acknowledge Bob Dylan as a rare and exceptional writer.


Bob Dylan at his typewriter


A Message to An Older Me

Since National Poetry Day 2016 is just around the corner (6th October) here is a poem I wrote in relation to this years theme of Messages.

A Message to An Older Me

You must have frost between your joints now,
you find that the days run like clockwork and it’s
left a t ic k i n g insanity
teasing the mines in your head
your hands are tired, but so is everyone else
it’s not romantic anymore and it’s a bore to talk about
the glass is seldom lonely and the morning turns grey
with the soft sweet murmur of last night’s liquor

it’s been years
so I guess the kids can go a week without calling
now that they’re twenty-two
they’re out changing a world you finally thought you knew
you believed me once, or have you forgotten?
it’s me, don’t you see?
it’s me – I’m you
and you should listen, old lady, you should listen
I am young
a lot younger than you

I see an ageless dance in the sweet silver of today
in the space between the leaves
there is always a lucky piece of blue
now tip your chin up towards a shredded sky and wave
to a dawn of immortal flimsy gold
and never doubt
we are always part of The Movement
the world is loud
the world is old but life is young
and the best of times don’t leave the stage until the play is done

This is an original poem by Vivien Lin, if you wish to share or publish it elsewhere, please make me aware of this by emailing me for consent. 



Lunch Poems has been published for over half a decade now, but still retains it’s youth. Published in 1964 by City Lights Books, Lunch Poems remains O’Hara’s most icon collection of work.

It was written during O’Hara’s time in Manhattan, having graduated from Harvard and arrived on the scene to become a key member of the New York School, which also included the likes of John Ashbery and other painters and poets.

1964 saw America on the precipice of a new, modern age, but society had not quite tipped over the edge yet. O’Hara’s Lunch Poems represented much of what a modern America would be.

The collection is rich with contemporary vocabulary and runs like a subway from destination to destination, from one event to the next like an endless stream.

Poems such as ‘Steps,’ highlights O’Hara’s uncomplicated romantic voice:

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and to drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

Unlike more traditional poetry, O’Hara’s work delivers emotion through simplicity and and lighthearted irony, which often conveys evident loneliness and sentimentality in his poems.

Lunch Poems successfully depicts life in the city, it portrays a colourful, human urban environment, swollen with the intense juices of life. O’Hara shows appreciation for fine art, such as operas, which comes as not surprise, as he was often seen as a ‘poet among painters.’ O’Hara was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and was surrounded by revolutionary artists. Similarly, his poetry was rich with the colours and textures of busy Manhattan.

Finally, as a reader on the 21st century, I think it’s safe to say that Lunch Poems has not aged since it’s 1964 publication, O’Hara’s modern artistic style and his interpretation of his city remains alive and relevant today. I like to keep my Pocket Poet Series of Lunch Poems with me when travelling, especially in the city. I’d like to see the center of life as Mr O’Hara did.



I’ve got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow

At night on the dock
the buses glow like
clouds and I am lonely
thinking of flutes

I miss you always
when I go to the beach
the sand is wet with
tears that seem mine

although I never weep
and hold you in my
heart with a very real
humor you’d be proud of

the parking lot is
crowded and I stand
rattling my keys the car
is empty as a bicycle

what are you doing now
where did you eat your
lunch and were there
lots of anchovies it

is difficult to think
of you without me in
the sentence you depress
me when you are alone

Last night the stars
were numerous and today
snow is their calling
card I’ll not be cordial

there is nothing that
distracts me music is
only a crossword puzzle
do you know how it is

when you are the only
passenger if there is a
place further from me
I beg you do not go



Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days


POEM OF THE DAY: WALT WHITMAN- O’ Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills; 10
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman

POEM OF THE DAY: E.E CUMMINGS- You Are Tired (I Think)

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I’ll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart

While the moon comes out of the sea


e.e cummings .


“Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter, your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give.”
― Ted Hughes Birthday Letters

“The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.
That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her and I knew it”
– Ted Hughes Birthday Letters

Imagine what you are writing about.
See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously, as if you were working out mental arithmetic.
Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it.
When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic.”
― Ted Hughes Poetry in the Making: An Anthology

“And you will never know what a battle
I fought to keep the meaning of my words
Solid with the world we were making.”
– Ted Hughes Birthday Letters  

“Your temples, where the hair crowded in,
Were the tender place. Once to check
I dropped a file across the electrodes
of a twelve-volt battery — it exploded
Like a grenade. Somebody wired you up.
Somebody pushed the lever. They crashed
The thunderbolt into your skull.
In their bleached coats, with blenched faces,
They hovered again
To see how you were, in your straps.
Whether your teeth were still whole.
The hand on the calibrated lever
Again feeling nothing
Except feeling nothing pushed to feel
Some squirm of sensation. Terror
Was the cloud of you
Waiting for these lightnings. I saw
An oak limb sheared at a bang.
You your Daddy’s leg. How many seizures
Did you suffer this god to grab you
By the roots of the hair? The reports
Escaped back into clouds. What went up
Vaporized? Where lightning rods wept copper
And the nerve threw off its skin
Like a burning child
Scampering out of the bomb-flash. They dropped you
A rigid bent bit of wire
Across the Boston City grid. The lights
In the Senate House dipped
As your voice dived inwards
Right through the bolt-hole basement.
Came up, years later,
Over-exposed, like an X-ray —
Brain-map still dark-patched
With the scorched-earth scars
Of your retreat. And your words,
Faces reversed from the light,
Holding in their entrails. ”
– Ted Hughes The Tender Place from Birthday Letters – 1998


‘The earth has music for those who listen.’

‘The stroke of death is as a lovers pinch. Which hurts and is desired.’

‘Love me or hate me, both are in my favour.
If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart.
If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.’

‘And his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love.’ (Othello)

‘You have witchcraft in your lips.’

‘For she had eyes and chose me.’

‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.’

‘She was false as water.’

‘I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.’

‘Have more than you show, speak less than you know.’

‘I would not wish any companion in the world but you.’

‘My heart is ever at your service.’

‘To say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days.’

‘When I saw you, I fell in love and you smiled because you knew.’

‘I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all.’

‘I do love nothing in the world as well as you: is not that strange?’


Are We There Yet?

mutters toss and turn under rumpled sighs
seagulls come swooping without warning
finally the kings and queens of little empires
colliding and meeting but never seeing
grasping stupidly at clouds in empty time
hushed whispers fill our heads, our hearts
the cycle the cycle we must not break
we are lost, suspended in a single sunbeam
smiling through the bottomless free fall
the fall it feels like flying, soaring, roaming
it feels so because we imagine it to be
but when imagination slips into the void
no longer do we care if it is to come home
what a childish thing to want, we’ll think
childish thoughts for shallow childish lives
plummeting like devils towards the centre
dreary nights become just like the last
no midnight pondering of other milky spirals
just cling film and wine and autumn gutters
sit down and shut up we’ll say (but shout)
focused, judgemental like we were taught
stars and skies and humans are only dust
ground underfoot, glinting, shattered legacies
we’re made, not living, just standing still
guardians of the summer before we forgot
the night with the rainbow, the saucepan
friends: you can’t remember me can you?
lonely hands in clean kitchens and gardens
how many years will we waste and carry
twist the knot tighter and hurl into bins
sit upright unsmiling to keep our faces
blink each sunny spell and hurricane away
pass our faults along to kids who’ll say
how sad we’ll be when we are grown

the bluest cloud

you came and woke me early today
blue traces in your hair
said the wind had smelt just like the sun
said I could find you there
your sunbeam hands tipped them forward the
driftwood of your conscience
ruckled midnight words of the absurd
borderline of nonsense
you are and will be the greatest thing
i lend my night sky to
all my moonlit sighs of dawn’s first light
they all belong to you
you are enthralled by refulgent flames
planets away from me
constellations sleep behind your eyes
finches yours to carry
laughing the records of ’94
your voice above the keys
glass misted with the breath of a boy
a whisper from the breeze
through the heavy mist of 5AM
the clouds they said to me
the parts of me that fail to reach you
meander in the sea


They float like lanterns between the trees
An armless clock in the midnight breeze
Enchanted, bewitched in their own white now
Blue traces of the past lost in the folds of love’s gown
Beaten lungs, aching with warning
I turn from the play that comes to town
It’s credits ever changing, the story line stagnant
An invited friend snatches them
Jerks them into a chaotic labyrinth of endless black
They become the underlying stars of the sky
Illuminated by the toxic screams of their hollow walls
Hate punching through tissue thin hearts
He blunders through the cobwebs to search
For the man he was that night
When their wine glasses were rimmed with love
When he cast away the stars for her hand
The ornaments of their contract shimmer like her silver eyes
Trapped in the cracks of his boot soles
The burning rain that seals their fate
Feels like a blessing
On a stranger’s night I saw
Two paper lanterns
Ruined on the floor