Bob Dylan’s Birthday

Bob Dylan‘s birthday today. Here are a few items from the recently-opened Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  To begin with two postcards:

On the backside of an image of Geertgen tot Sint Jans (c. 1465 – c. 1495) – “The Glorification of the Virgin” –   c/o Burroughs, 8 Duke Street, St.James, London, S.W.1, England  (posted in Amsterdam):

Dear Bob, Here’s a halo of angel harpists, horns & Lutenist-Guitarists.  Visiting Museums and Kosmos sauna – vegetarian – meditation – poetry – youth houses, singing with local musicians improvising 20 minute blues now like falling off great big ancient log. Barbara Brucha (Rubin) said you’d tried to call me!  I’ll go to London tomorrow (sic) for Int(ernationa)l Poetry Festival to stay with Burroughs a month.    I have enough songs for a Coupla Albums, would like to do it small scale this time – maybe in winter  – Allen Ginsberg
[in addition] HELLO FROM AN ARDENT ADMIRER – Simon Vinkenoog  (poet, my translator)

and (March 28, 1965, from Russia – tho Allen includes his New York City address – 408 E 10th Street, Apt.4C, NYC):

“Now it’s after midnite I’m in an old hotel on Moscow river bank, look up out window + see Kremlin walls + clock tower, great fortress of Asia space I sat in snow by oniondome cathedral and wrote poems about the big dipper – Spent 3 days in Leningrad + saw 25 Rembrandts at Hermitage Museum. A few people here know T(helonious) Monk + a few people also know your music – you ought to take a vacation and tour this universe. I’m anonymous here & its great, tho’ I get lonely – met a kid in Prague with dark glasses who read Poe and had almost your visage –  love, Allen Ginsberg

These items from the Bob Dylan archive thrilled us, but even more thrilling, perhaps, was this – a letter from Bob

Dear Allen – (I) have listened to Kaddish and read liner notes and also red type on the back cover where there is you and your Mother and the statues…at first reading for some reason I took it that you were just signing the record for me & had decided to write a bunch of red lines on the back that would be nicer for me than simply “For Bob Dylan” on the front & that I should read them seriously. I must admit Allen, you’ve made the strangest
lieutenant with the horse in flames

his “lieutenant with the horse in flames”?

Then follows a page of free-form typing musings  – viz:

Pretty hard to fully decipher this, although there is the lieutenant and the flaming horse again (Allen and Dylan? Dylan and Allen?) and a litany of perverse injunctions (a little reminiscent, perhaps, of “Pull My Daisy”) – “point my finger to my temple/paint the horse until he smells/blow my soul apart/paint my mouth..” – “bump me off & tremble/take my feet & travel north”.  And there are the frankly gnomic attestations –  “according to the man who knows everything/and does not die & lesser decent men of temperature of lightening/according to the man who does/friction (neither a force nor an object)/time & counter-time..” – and, again –  “According to the constitution/any force upon an object/is a criminal force…as any object which collaborates with force in any way/is in itself (or in spite of itself) guilty of/ NO ONE WILL GO TO JAIL TODAY/ conspiring…every object, a dupe/all objects are dupes..”

Well, feel free to puzzle out the page yourself.

Bob the enigma is very much part of the Tulsa presentation, the avowed intention is that it be a place to explore, a provocation, an inspiration – not that anyone (least of all Bob) is proposing any definitive answers.

Steven Jenkins, the Center’s director – (from “Drawing Conclusions on the Wall – A Visit to the Bob Dylan Center“) – “There is an eternal elusiveness about Dylan. Try as we might to get to the bottom of him, he’s always going to remain out of reach. We will always be chasing after him. It’s in that spirit that we present the materials in the archives”

and it’s in that spirit (spirit of mystery) that we salute Bob (mystery and gratitude) today on his eighty-first birthday

Bob Dylan visits Allen Ginsberg’s New York East 12th Street apartment, October 15, 1975. Photo: Ken Regan

Happy Birthday, Bob!


  1. Joep Bremmers writes: The postcard Ginsberg send from Amsterdam is written in 1973, presumably June 27. Ginsberg and Vinkenoog had visited the Boymans van Beuningen museum on June 24, and that’s where he might have bought this postcard. Ginsberg had performed on Poetry International in Rotterdam and then stayed a few days at Simon Vinkenoog’s home in Amsterdam before leaving to London. Anyway, I love the postcard. Thank you for posting it!

  2. Think Dylan will share how he celebrated his 81st birthday?

    Well, hope he enjoyed family, friends, children, grand grandchildren, great grandchildren and a beautiful cake with 81 candles


    Ms A

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