It's my week for discovering that I've been quoted by writers I respect: first Kathy Shaidle, then Mark Steyn, now John Derbyshire. Unfortunately for my ego, Derbyshire, whom I admire tremendously, took issue with my expressed opinion, which is only fair, given that I'd taken issue with his.
In 2006 you asked why we no longer produce fine poets like John Betjeman. The answer is, it's your fault. Not just yours of course, but you're an unindicted co-conspirator. You can't call Bob Dylan a genius and expect poets to struggle for excellence.
Derbyshire's reply (also in the podcast):
Actually, I can. I make no claims for Dylan as a poet. I have three shelves of poetry books here in my study, total length about twelve feet, and not one book of Dylan lyrics. If there is one, I have no plan to buy it. The guy is a singer-songwriter, and that's his genius. He created a sound, a style, no-one had ever heard before. You think that's easy?
But Dylan created neither the sound nor the style (though an English twenty-year-old in 1965 likely couldn't have known that). His reputation-founding work was deeply derivative. Listen to Jack Elliott performing Woody Guthrie's "Talking Columbia Blues" in the mid-1950s:
Raise the vocal pitch, tune the guitar and tighten the harmonica part, and you have early Dylan.
Dylan may have come to personify the idea of the singer-songwriter, and he helped develop and popularize the sound, but he didn't originate it. Clever, charismatic, influential, yes; genre-inventing, no.