America’s most provocative intellectual brings her blazing powers of analysis to the most famous poems of the Western tradition—and unearths. Break, Blow, Burn By Camille Paglia. pp. Pantheon Books. $ CLEARLY designed as a come-on for bright students who don’t yet know. CLEARLY designed as a come-on for bright students who don’t yet know very much about poetry, Camille Paglia’s new book anthologizes
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Its principal virtue is its very straightforwardness. Why does Plath insert the grotesque German allusions and Eastern European vampire story in a poem about her relationship with her long dead father? I highly recommend this approach.
I was amazed yesterday when a poem finally cropped up in which she had nothing to say about God, sex, or even God and sex.
But taste, as the ancient aphorism has it, cannot be disputed, and if Mitchell serves as bait or appetizer for Donne and Shakespeare, I have little quarrel. I found it too genteel, too WASP, with its prudish evasion of sex and its hostility to psychoanalytic speculation. I don’t think some of Paglia’s modern selections can be justified as among “the world’s best poems. Paglia is explicit on this point in her introduction: As several other reviewers here have said, she tends to project some of her own personal issues into every poem and she comes across as saying that her reading is the only way these poems can be read.
The poem’s refrain is her anger, alleged by third parties. Chanting “wanda” nineteen times, the poem is like an exorcism, banishing impish spirits that grasp and scratch.
Paglia risks all this contradiction. Matthew Arnold noted that literary epochs may tend to swing between moments of creative impulse and critical consideration.
But above all, her range of allusion helps to show what was in Stevens’s head: I don’t like that all of her poems are from Western poets–what about the rest of the world? Paglia’s geniusif that’s it to be called, is her ability to recreate the poet’s thinking at the moment of composition. Only the final selection — Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” — was out of hurn league. In Break, Blow, Burn which I spent five years writingmy aim is to demonstrate how to blend the close textual ;aglia of New Criticism with external biographical and historical considerations.
Paglia’s close readings of these 43 poems constitutes a master class in reading, understanding, and appreciating poetry, while remaining highly accessible.
But you couldn’t doubt her love of it. But the worth of this book will be found not in quibbling with her choices, for we all would come up with our own idiosyncratic list, but in whether her readings are helpful to us. Thanks to the proliferation of post-structuralism, Marxism, and all the other components of Bloom’s School of Resentment, the art of close reading of poetry has been sadly neglected in recent decades.
And beware of confusing the poet with the poem. For instance, her treatment of Leda and the Swan pagliw a modest assistance with the mythological references at the poem’s centre, how the rape of Leda was the primal spring of the Trojan war: An essay follows each poem that explains the poet’s significance and then proceeds to describe what is interesting, unique and, yes, pleasure-giving about the poem. It tries to introduce good, accessible short poems in English and to help readers enjoy them as Paglia does.
A regular contributor to Salon.
Students expecting a poem by Maya Angelou will find that this book is less inclusive than the average lineup for Inauguration Day. Readers who think they already know something of the subject, however, would be rash if they gave her low marks just for spelling things out. Camile Paglia published her collection of poetry essays Break ,Blow, Burn now in paperback inand straight away there were those neoconservatives who seized upon the firebrand professor as one of their ownsomeone bring “reason” back to the classroom.
These works cannot bear the weight of intelligence and commentary brought to them.
I am certainly not a prude and I’ve taken enough gender studies and lit classes to know that s I rather liked the first section where paglia writes about older “classic” poetry and thought she had some fantastic insights. Want to Read saving…. She has great skill as a writer. Writing in “The Guardian” about an article in which Paglia explains why certain 20th century writers didn’t make the cut, John Dugdale comments: Lists with Bow Book. Paglia, herself a member of this much maligned at least by me community.
Paglia sees the unity of poetry, that all good poems have a vital relation with one another and with the idea of poetry.
In “Break, Blow, Burn,” Paglia approaches poetry with a reverence for craft, noting, for example, the way Shakespeare strings a sentence along in “Sonnet 29” to create a palpable tension, leaving it unrelieved until the poem’s final rhyming couplet: Visit our Beautiful Books page and find lovely books for kids, photography lovers and more.
Paglia understands the needs of the general audience and meets them, which is what camklle Break Blow Burn such a great read.
The insight is not a new one. For Break Blow Burn, Paglia selected, as the garish but intriguing pink and black cover says, forty-three of the world’s best poems from expected choices like Shakespeare to surprising, quirky inclusions like Joni Mitchell and explicated them. She brings in pertinent details from the poets’ bliw and eras, she provides the kind of solid groundwork that professors use to launch classroom discussions and she carefully defines her terms “a quatrain is a set of four lines” — though they’re not always the terms one might wish she’d define.
Too often, then, literary criticism becomes a testimony to the subjective biases of the critic and pagoia the provision of an entry into the mystery of the creative process.
Her pay’s mingy, her apartment’s a dump, and despite all that, she should lighten up! And so we have “Break, Blow, Burn: As for Wilbur, his fastidiously carpentered postwar poems were part of the American liberation of Europe.
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I was not expecting the scope of the book, my mind was overloaded as I went from century to century, art movement to art movement, reading psychosexual analysis of influential artists and philosophers and, concomitantly, Western civilization itself.
The mercurial language of Shakespeare, on the other hand, still dazzles, baffles, and enchants. She is reading poetry for itself. The poem’s lashing lines resemble “snaps” in an old African-American game, the “dozens,” where duelists trade mock insults “Yo’ mama’s so ugly, she’d scare moss off a rock”. An interview with Camille Paglia, which focuses on her latest work, begins by asking how her approach to interpretation lines up with that taken in modern universities:.
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