by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor
Britt Aamodt is a featured guest this weekend at Dylan Days in Hibbing, having written a poem about Bob Dylan that won second prize in a contest sponsored by the festival.
The Elk River resident and frequent contributor to this publication penned a 19-line ode “South at Howard Street, Summer ‘59,” drawing from summers spent with grandparents in Chisholm, near Hibbing. (See below)
“We jumped in the lake. We ate poticia, pasties and porketta. We polkaed at Bimbo’s on Side Lake,” Aamodt said. They also visited an abandoned underground mine. “Those memories were my connection to a 19-year-old Dylan who left Hibbing in the summer of 1959.”
Dylan headed for the University of Minnesota, then Greenwich Village and launched the enduring career that’s produced such classics as “Blowing in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changing” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Dylan (orginally Robert Zimmerman) has told interviewers that sometimes people are born in the wrong town with the wrong parents and the wrong name.
“He knew his destiny lay elsewhere,” Aamodt said. “That’s the Dylan I tried to portray in the poem, a young guy so obsessed by music, he sees it everywhere, in newspaper headlines, in the sound of a mine blast, in (the) holler of a school bell. A guy who has to get out of there, has to follow that star he set on his musical horizons.”
Aamodt, a producer for Minneapolis radio station KFAI, recited the poem on Friday at the Dylan Days Literary Event hosted by Howard Street Booksellers in downtown Hibbing. The poem will appear in Talkin’ Blues, the literary journal and program for the festival.
The contest called for fiction and poetry with some connection to Dylan. Entries poured in from around the world. The winner in poetry came from British Columbia. One from Turkey placed third. The fiction winner was from Massachusetts and the student poetry winner was from Illinois.
Aamodt, who grew up in Maryland, had little interest in Dylan growing up because he was “this character from documentary films about the ‘60s; protest music, long hair, LSD, that kind of stuff.” However, a few years ago, Aamodt was interviewing an elderly Golden Valley man for a story about his father who was a lawyer in a famous case. He introduced Aamodt to an extensive Dylan collection, starting with “Things Have Changed.”
“And I don’t know if I fell in love with the song, or the grouchy old man who’d suddenly turned into an excited music-obsessed 20-something again,” Aamodt said, “but I listened to that song like I hadn’t listened to anything since I was a teenager.”
Aamodt belatedly became a Dylan collector, read his memoir “Chronicles” and jumped at the chance to write something in tribute when she heard about the Dylan Days contest.
South at Howard Street, Summer ’59
By Britt Aamodt
I like ragged, rouster, tall songs.
I like them sung on buses, from stucco
houses, on porch swings, at the last holler
of the school bell.
I am that song.
Newspaper headline lyrics. Sidewalk step
guitar licks—Bohunk Betty had
a polka band, bambalam. Cold
War bomb drills, bambalam.
I am that song.
Side Lake summer in a Finn
steam sauna. Me ‘n’ some
buddies, we ride the frets, pile
the progressions, grease bass runs.
I am that song.
That song that’ll play me outta here,
on a four/four riff. Cos I’m bound for glory,
like Woody Guthrie, mouth harp and pick in my pocket,
and a song for a roadmap.