He’s so unhip that when you say ‘Dylan’, he thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. The man ain’t got no culture.
—Simon and Garfunkel
“A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)”
While “Rhymin’ Simon” was likely referencing British poet Dylan Thomas with a tongue-in-cheek approach, the snarky aside nevertheless addressed a cultural divide between the Sixties counterculture and their literary forbearers in the previous era.
In 1934 he published his first book 18 Poems during which time his work took on its characteristic style highlighting romantic imagery and aesthetic rhythmic style. The “images” he created, particularly ripe with conflict and contradiction, were evident in his best known work including “And death shall have no dominion” and “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
Like many of my own generation, my primary reference point regarding Thomas would (regrettably) be the recitation of his most renowned work by Rodney Dangerfield in the hit movie, Back to School where the comedy legend learns the poem to get through a mandatory exam. That should be satisfactory enough for most, however, considering the Minnesota folk-rocker who adopted Thomas’s name and rode it to stardom himself apparently didn’t even know how it was pronounced at first.
That all goes to show that the cyclical nature of art and communication for that matter can be irrelevant in its details. The proliferation of what we experience through words, images, juxtapositions and patterns are what we pass on and remember— when all is said and done.
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