Saturday, December 10, 2016

This Magic Moment: Nobel Spotlight On Oslo and Hibbing Today and a Gubernatorial Proclamation

Today in Oslo the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, "for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end." Also on this day Nobel Medals, Diplomas and Prizes will be awarded in Stockholm for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Literature. If you have ever wondered why these prizes are awarded on December 10 each year, it is to honor the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death, as stipulated in the will of the Swedish-born inventor and international industrialist Alfred Nobel, which was opened after his death in 1896, 120 years ago today.

Is it a big deal? You bet. And it's a pretty big deal here in northern Minnesota, too, as one of these recipients will be the Northland's own Bob Dylan.

In Duluth, where the infant Robert was born to Abe & Beatty Zimmerman, the News Tribune has run a number of articles and opinion pieces in this week leading up to today's ceremony. Last Sunday's Opinion page included several. Wednesday, the paper printed a "Local View" editorial by Don Dass, Dylan’s Nobel a confirmation of Duluth’s vibrant arts scene, in which he compares the many parallels to our first Duluth resident to have received a Nobel Prize for Literature.

Writes Dass: "For Dylan, the association with Duluth is of the most basic and indelible kind. He drew his first breath here, took his first drink of water, walked his first steps, spoke his first words, and, certainly, heard and sang his first songs. It was here, too, that his father was stricken with polio. He repeatedly and fondly has recalled Duluth and Hibbing, directly and indirectly, in songs and interviews. Anecdotes still have him making occasional quiet visits to the area."

And today's DNT features another area voice, this one a board member of the Armory Arts & Music Center and volunteer on our Duluth Dylan Fest committee, Nelson French, titled Nobel winner Dylan a clear product of our ‘North Country’.

French, whose brother owns the home in Hibbing that the Zimmerman family once occupied, writes, "Mr. Dylan reflects the true nature of the bard and troubadour with traditional folk roots in his approach to connecting the past to the present and to the future via his timeless words and music. Much of his work has been borrowed from the past, reflecting the best of “Love and Theft” traditions in poetry and music, a recognition of the fact that all things in this life are connected and continuous. In his songs and words there is a certain truth and connection to the human condition, something that resonates with many: thus his importance as a figure in music and poetry history."

He reminds us that Dylan's "roots in the North Country — both in place and time — were very critical in shaping him and the path he chose to pursue in life. The North Country can be broadly defined as Duluth, the Iron Range, the nearby wilderness areas, and the culturally diverse people who populate this place. The time Mr. Dylan was raised and educated here is inextricably linked to a critical time in the history of our nation and the world."

In England, 2002*
This is why there is value in our gathering today to honor Dylan here in the North Country. As has been cited here before, the North Country contributed to making him who he was, and he's carried that spirit within him ever since.

Today Governor Mark Dayton is slated to visit Hibbing to make an announcement at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon stating that today is officially Bob Dylan Day in Minnesota. (The actual proclamation is at the end of this blog post.)

A lot has happened in Northern Minnesota since mid-October when the Swedish Academy announced that this year's Nobel Prize in Literature was to be awarded to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." Almost immediately there were discussions about fund raising to build a statue. But people close to Mr. Dylan were quick to note that Bob Dylan really didn't want a statue. As soon as this became apparent other kinds of ideas began emerging. Yesterday Minnesota Public Radio did this story about the matter.

For those unaware of the details, the Nobel Prize celebrations are a week long event. According to Annika Pontikis, Director of Communications for the Nobel Foundation, "the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony starts at 16.30 CET. The presentation speech about Bob Dylan will be given at 17.10 CET and Patti Smith will perform at around 17.15 CET."

For those hoping to follow the event live, 16.30 is 4:30 p.m. there and 9:30 a.m. here in the Northland. This means the speech will be given at 10:10 a.m. here.

I learned this morning from Ms. Pontikis that earlier this autumn, even before Bob Dylan was announced as Nobel Laureate in Literature, "Patti Smith was asked to participate in a full day meeting on December 9 called Nobel Week Dialogue." When Patti Smith sings A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, it will be a song that she has chosen herself.

Dylan's silence about the initial award left some people either annoyed or confused. But when Bob Dylan called Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, he stated simply, "The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless. I appreciate the honor so much.”

Since the Nobel Prize is regarded by far as the most prestigious prize in the world, the Award Ceremonies as well as the Banquets in Stockholm and Oslo today have been transformed from local Swedish and Norwegian arrangements into major international events that receive worldwide coverage by the print media, radio and television.

To say this is an exciting day is an understatement. Temps have been dropping this week here in the Northland, but hearts have been greatly warmed.

* * * *

Below is a copy of the proclamation that Governor Mark Dayton is scheduled to be making at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. You can probably read it more clearly on this page. The last "whereas" declares, "Dylan's legacy is such that generations of people in the United States and around the world will know and celebrate his immense contributions to American literary culture and popular song..."

*Photo credit being sought for In England 2002.

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