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Dylan Sings His 'Poems' In Moscow

July 27, 1985|CELESTINE BOHLEN | The Washington Post

MOSCOW — Bob Dylan looked just a little out of place up on the stage in a Moscow sports hall on Thursday night, seated among a group of international poets behind tubs of potted geraniums and a table set with mineral water.

He was dressed in white from head to foot, with dark glasses and the familiar mop of curly hair. Most of the other 26 poets wore suits and ties, except for the Nicaraguan cultural minister in a safari jacket and beret and an Indian poet in a flowing robe.

And while the other literati recited their poetry, Dylan sang his, after ducking off stage for 10 minutes to tune his guitar. Twangs of "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" wafted across the vast airspace of the small sports arena at the Lenin stadium complex, over the heads of a sparse audience seated in aluminum deck chairs lined up on the gym floor.

Dylan received applause, not quite overwhelming but better than polite.

Clearly, he was something different, something unexpected by the assembled poetry lovers, most of whom seemed not to have had a clue that the famous idol of the 1960s would be in their midst.

Dylan's appearance this week in the Soviet Union--his first ever--was low-key, to say the least. Even the international poetry reading in which he took part was barely advertised, and as far as anyone knew, his name never appeared on any billboard or in any newspaper.

But if Dylan is known in the Soviet Union, it is less among the young generation than among those who remember him from the '60s. "Those records I have," said the organizer.

Actually, no one seems to remember whether his records were ever officially sold here.

Dylan wasn't clear about how long he'd be staying in Moscow. "I don't really know. I just came in to do this," he said.

The poetry reading was sponsored by the Soviet Writers' Union. Dylan was asked to come by Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko three months ago, he said. "I told him I don't really read my stuff," Dylan added. "He said it would be nice if I could sing."

Yevtushenko, who introduced Dylan, described him as a "famous . . . singing poet."

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