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Lot #2070
Bob Dylan Quad-Signed Handwritten Poems: "Mona Lisa"

Quartet of dialogue-driven poems filled with Dylan's early influences—from old spirituals to the Mona Lisa

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Quartet of dialogue-driven poems filled with Dylan's early influences—from old spirituals to the Mona Lisa

Superb quartet of handwritten poems in pencil by Bob Dylan, all signed "Dylan," one page, 8.5 x 11, taken from his circa 1960 'Poems Without Titles' penned while at the University of Minnesota. The first recalls an overheard choral group:

"I heard this—
'Let's all
Joshua now
we'll really have
a grand time.'"

Dylan refers to the popular African-American spiritual 'Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,' which features the oft-copied refrain 'And the walls come tumbling down.' The Traveling Wilburys would adapt that classic line for the chorus of the Dylan-sung 'Tweeter and the Monkey Man': 'And the walls came down / all the way to hell.'

In this brief conversation, the poet places himself as the arbiter of understanding—not unlike the singer of 'Ballad of a Thin Man,' who shouts:

'You try so hard
But you don’t understand…
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is.'

The third, a Minneapolis street scene:

grind along
Third Avenue
in the
hours of

Dylan is known to love Cadillacs, calling one a 'good car to drive after a war' in his freewheeling 'Talkin' World War III Blues.' More recently, he would famously—and unexpectedly—appear in a commercial for the Cadillac Escalade in 2007—by that time, he was a long way from Third Avenue. He also did a great 'Cadillac' episode on Theme Time Radio Hour.

The last piece places the poet at the intersection of music and visual art, observing the Mona Lisa and alluding to the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker:
"I ask
'Is she

Dylan would later explore the 'Mona Lisa smile,' a common trope in art and literature, in his Blonde On Blonde classic 'Visions of Johanna': 'Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues, you can tell by the way she smiles.' In fine condition.

This page from 'Poems Without Titles' stands out from the others as the only one signed four times. It is also noteworthy that three of the poems employ dialogue, a construction that Dylan would later utilize in several songs (for example, the 'I said / He said' of 'Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,' or the 'God said / Abe said' of 'Highway 61 Revisited'). A fascinating piece filled with evidence of Dylan's early influences.

Bob Dylan Poem Copyright © 2022 Babinda Music

Provenance: Christie’s, 11/21/05

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Marvels of Modern Music
  • Dates: #636 - Ended May 19, 2022

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