by Daniel McGinn

I know at least a dozen women who tell me
they were the Queen of Sheba. And I know
a few Napoleons and two Joan of Arcs
and one Einstein. I mean, who’s a person anymore,
everything’s done for media. Everything’s a business.
Love, truth, beauty. Conversation is a business.

I needed to forget about things, myself included,
and I’d get so far away, and turn on the radio,
and there I am, but it’s not me.

My-life-is-an-open-book sort of thing
and I choose to be involved with the people
I’m involved with. They don’t choose me.

A lot of guys say stuff like:
Well he changed our lives before,
how come he can’t do it now?
Their expectations are so high,
nobody can fulfill them.
I don’t mind being put down,
but intense personal hatred is another thing.

A lot of times it’s you talking to you.
The I, like in: I in I, also changes.
It could be I or it could be the I who created me.
It could be another person who’s saying I.
When I say I right now, I don’t know who
I’m talking about.

The you in my songs is me talking to me.
Other times I can be talking to someone else.
If I’m talking to me in a song I’m not going
to drop everything and say, alright,
now I’m talking to you.

I began writing because I was singing.
Things were changing and a certain song
needed to be written. I started writing
because I wanted to sing them.
If they had been written I wouldn’t have
started to write them. I stumbled into it,
it was nothing I had prepared myself for,
but I did sing a lot of songs before
I wrote my own. I think that’s important.

I can try to answer these questions.
I’m supposed to be somebody
who knows something about writing
but I don’t know much about it.

The best songs are songs you don’t know
anything about. Put yourself in a place
where all you can do is imagine
something you haven’t experienced.
Someone else has, and will identify
with it. Like: Here I am stuck in the job
and I can’t get out of it. I’m working
as a civil servant, what am I going
to do next? I hate this existence.

Why do I want somebody
thinking about what I’m thinking about,
especially if it’s not to their benefit.

My life takes priority over people
dealing with my life. I don’t have
any answers to questions they would print.
You know, like: How come you don’t eat fish?

A lot of people from the press want to talk to me,
but they never do. It really has nothing to do
with me, personally. When I think of mystery,
I don’t think about myself. I stay out of sight, if I can.

SOURCE: Scott Cohen interview with Bob Dylan (Rolling Stone, December 1985).

IMAGE: Self-Portrait by Bob Dylan (1970).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel McGinn‘s work has appeared numerous anthologies and publications, his full length collection of poems, 1000 Black Umbrellas was released by Write Bloody Press. He recently earned an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He and his wife, poet Lori McGinn, are natives of Southern California. They have 3 children, 6 grandchildren, two parakeets and a very good dog.