Washington and Lee Professor helped get Dylan his Nobel

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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) -- Gordon Ball has only met Bob Dylan once, in 1971.

“Well, it was at a synagogue at the occasion of a mutual friend’s wedding celebration,” he says. “And I couldn’t really hear what he was saying because we were surrounded by many motherly types who were exclaiming to each other – this was in the vestibule prior to the celebration – who were exclaiming: Look! Bobby’s here! Bobby’s here!”

But that hasn’t stopped him from including him in his study of American poetry, and it didn’t stop him from nominating the Dylan for a Nobel in Literature about a dozen times, starting in 1996.

If you’re doing the math, that’s 20 years before Dylan got it this year.

“It was frustrating," he explains. "But you never knew, so you didn’t want to give up, you know.”

Ball’s main area of study is actually the Beat poets of the '50s, and it was through poet Allen Ginsberg that he was recruited to the cause of Dylan’s prize.

“I also enlisted supporting letters from several other professors in the United States and England,” he says.

But the stoic Swedish Academic stood silent.

“Basically, except one year they wrote back: Thank you for your letter.”

Until last week, when Ball – a visiting professor at Washington and Lee -- was teaching a poetry class.

“We had just been listening and listening to and discussing ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna’ Fall’ on Wednesday," he says, "The day before the announcement came.”