Stuart A Paterson, Jimmy Gilpin speaks about Bob Dylan’s Hat


This was the hat he wore, the hat in which he stored
his head, his genius, millions of images he’d made of what he’d seen of us,
of everything, of everyone, each note & chord stuffed thick
beneath the hat he wore beneath which sat the head that wore the crown.

This was the hat he gave to me that night outside Earl’s Court,
didn’t doff it, lose it, give it away but silently removed & offered it
as gift in some sad celebratory ritual of exchange, that hat he wore
on the cover of Desire & when I asked if I could have it, off it came,
no hesitation, no drum roll, no knowing showboating smile or grandiose
gesture with those world-conducting batons of hand, just gave it over, wordless,
unrushed in the breezeless summer of London ’78.

This was the hat that held in place his crazy plate which span out
lines & filaments & memory & tribute to the loves which were
& are & maybe still will be when he’d stayed up for days
in the Chelsea Hotel writing ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ for her.

This one’s for you, Sarah, he said right after laying down the track,
and this one’s for you, Jimmy, his eyes appeared to say after handing over
the hat he wore, the hat in which he stored himself, each line a thread
unravelling beautifully, tunefully the minute that it left his universal head.

Stuart A Paterson is a widely published and anthologised Scottish poet living in Galloway. Writing in English and his native Scots language, he’s a previous recipient of an EC Gregory Award and a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. From 2017-18, he was BBC Scotland’s Poet-in-Residence.

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