I will tell you why you make me cry. The first time I experienced heartbreak I was too ashamed to confide in anyone. I was lonely. And she was still the only person I could talk to. It was my first taste of irony. On a long walk afterwards, those many sunsets ago, you taught me to sing, and I woke up to a jingle jangle morning. In a time where broken dreams were drowned in cups of tea and conversation, your poetry made me still, and find the music of my heart.
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.
(from Love Minus Zero, No Limit)
Disillusioned by my first taste of a big city job and feeling worthless, I remember searching for Cat Stevens in my suitcase. Someone called me a quitter and I don't know if I've felt rawer than that. My suitcase rummaging brought your cassette up instead. And here is what you told me...
Im ready to go anywhere/I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it.
(From Tambourine Man)
I forgot about you after that. There would be parties where the midnight quiet meant someone picking up a guitar and playing your song. And then everything would stand still. I would become untwisted. And would hold your words around me like a blanket against the cold.
Though I know that evening's empire
Has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty streets too dead for dreaming.
(From Tambourine Man)
When I left for America I was still clueless. As are many others like me who come to your world from mine. I found that tentative life exciting and terrifying. Streets were symmetrical and people smiled politely. I didn't understand how anything worked. In my first month in Los Angeles, I remember being drawn to a street musician playing these words. The air around me changed and your words held me tight again.
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone. ( From 'Like A Rolling Stone')
I'm now entering what we fashionably call "early mid life". I'm as clueless as before except I show it less. The world has changed so much and it gets madder and noisier. There is no rationale to many things that happen. You've got this covered too.
The line it is drawn/ the curse it is cast
The slow one now /will later be fast
As the present now / will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
(From 'Times they are a changin')
I don't know your politics now. There are some who question that. There are quite a few who don't like that they just gave you the Nobel for literature. I would love to tell them to go look for the answers blowing in the wind.
My wife pointed out that an Irishman already wrote you an open letter and not to bother you more. I thought you ought to know how deeply you affect people from other parts of the world too.
You're provided the punctuation to the scattered sentences of my life. Alongside the Beatles and Ziggy and many others. But unlike the others, with you it has been your poetry. Simple and undying. And always so true.
I don't care that you have 37 albums or sold trillions of records. Or won many awards already. We both know dreamers don't care about all that.
Your words have been my catharsis. And the best poetry I've known. They've made me cry for the moments I've been given. And the moments I crave. Your words have been my morning story and my bedtime salve. They've been my lucky charms and my steady companions. You've moved me, sir. And many, many others whose ordinary lives found a little magic because of what you've written. Regardless of what anyone else says, your poetry has been literature many of us revere. And it has made the world so much richer.
Hey Woody Guthrie I know thar you know
All the things that I'm saying and a many times more
I'm singing you this song but I can't sing enough..
Cause there's not many men that've done the things you've done..
(From 'Song for Woody')
I'm so glad they gave you the Nobel. The world can be sane sometimes, and so ready to be taken on a trip on a magic swirling ship. There is hope yet.
The writer is a well-known pianist based in Chennai. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org