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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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read vlow. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Break, Blow, Burn by Camille Paglua. Daring, riveting, and beautifully written, Break, Blow, Burn brreak excite even seasoned poetry lovers, and create a generation of new ones. Includes a new epilogue that details the selection process for choosing the 43 poems presented in this book and provides commentary on some of the pieces that didn’t make the final cut.
Paperbackpages. Published January 24th by Vintage first published March 29th To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Break, Blow, Burnplease sign up. Lists with This Book. Mar 23, James rated it really liked it Shelves: All in all, this is one of the most useful books on poetry I’ve ever read.
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, budn inclusions like Joni Mitchell and explicated them.
As always, she is scintillating, sensual and enticingly campy and controversial and her prose is beautiful.
Break, Blow, Burn – Camille Paglia discusses poetry
She labored a long time on this short work, but it never feels labored. Quite the contrary, she seems to have mastered the art of wringing as much out of a poem in as brief a space as possible; her explications have all the quick perfection of a Borges essay.
Paglia’s enthusiasm for poetry is infectious, and her respect for these great works led her to make an aesthetic decision that I can’t praise highly enough. In an interview, she expressed her distaste for the way poems run together in Norton Anthologies of poetry, and she chooses here to give an individual page for each poem, like a painting occupying its own space of a museum wall.
This may seem like a minor detail, but the fatigue of the eye those collections cause is a greater enemy to the general reader than the actual difficulty of the poetry in question. Paglia understands the needs of the general audience and meets them, which is what makes Break Blow Burn such a great read. Her insight is profound, and, although there can never be a definitive reading of a great poem, that thought does not much enter the mind when reading Paglia’s seemingly authoritative interpretations; although she is a celebrator of popular culture and is scorned by the bourgeois establishment, she is a truly remarkable writer and critic, and this book is a joy from start to finish.
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.
I truly hope this gem of a book is the start of a resurgent trend. Jul 02, Jess rated it really liked it Shelves: This is one of those books that I respected much more than I enjoyed. Break, Blow, Burn was recommended to me in preparation for Oxford’s entrance exam but I think this only made it all the more daunting – Camille Paglia ‘s searing powers of analysis and her stunning prose are unparalleled.
She is indeed an ‘academic rottweiler’. Paglia breaks down an extremely diverse range of poetry all the way from Shakespeare to Pomeroy, and even Joni Mitchell makes a guest appearance. The contextual details w This is one of those books that I respected much more than I enjoyed. The contextual details were fascinating, but the references to American culture and associated jargon went straight over my head.
Nothing like I’ve ever read before and incredibly insightful. What is it they say about the aspirational nature of readership?! Oct 07, Nick rated it liked it. I am admittedly a sucker for any academic willing to bitch in print about the state of the English dept in and the soul-sucking post-structuralist swamp we find ourselves lost in, and so Paglia, brash lesbian Freudian feminist from Philly, is of course a natural selection for this evening’s reading.
Will get back to you. Pretty silly in places, insightful in others, always entertaining, plus the neon pink cover is gaudy in the best way. Ultimately most valuable for her embrace of a pr I am admittedly a sucker for any academic willing to bitch in print about the state of the English dept in and the soul-sucking post-structuralist swamp we find ourselves lost in, and so Paglia, brash lesbian Freudian feminist from Philly, is of course a natural selection for this evening’s reading.
Ultimately most valuable for her embrace of a pre-postmodern approach to poetry explication, one unhampered by French Theory, than most of the explications themselves. Also, Paglia has turned me on to John Donne.
Would love to hear her take on Hart Crane! May 26, Edward rated it it was amazing. When I first read that Camille Paglia was working on a book about poetry my mind screamed: What is she thinking? I had previously read rumors that she was penning a sequel to Sexual Personae that focused on contemporary society and the spectacle of paganism inherent in seemingly mundane events such as football games; I believe there was even a statement by her to that effect.
But no, what she had been laboring on for years was not a tome-ish SexII but rather a slim pink book explainin When I first read that Camille Paglia was working on a book about poetry my mind screamed: But no, what she had been laboring on for years was not a tome-ish SexII but rather a slim pink book explaining poems from freshmen college courses.
Sexual Personae is one of the few books I have read that had a profound influence on me, more profound than Joyce’s Ulysses. I remember first reading Sexual Personae in my then Central Park West apartment on a sunny morning overlooking the park. Blpw didn’t move for hours, only the shadows in the living room did. I had come to the book via a professor at Brooklyn Hurn who read an excerpt from the Emily Dickenson chapter and thought she was marvelous.
I was not expecting the scope of the book, my mind was overloaded as I went from century to century, art camile to art movement, reading psychosexual analysis of influential artists and philosophers and, concomitantly, Western civilization itself. Absurd liberal vagaries of truth were blown out of the water on virtually every page.
Paglia, although a liberal herself, is too much of a brilliant straight shooter to buy into liberal fantasies and chic victimology.
I have had three copies of the book since it came out in the mids. Sexual Personae is a book you don’t just read, you live with it. The two follow-ups, Sex, Art, and American Paglix and Vamps and Tramps are by comparison essays cobbled together willy-nilly from the closet. They are fun, but reading them after Sexual Personae is like following up a dinner of filet mignon and dark red wine with pop-rocks.
Camille Paglia discusses Poetry with TMO
When I read that she was working on SPIIpart of me did not like that she was going back to SP and simply rearranging the ivy of her laurels, but another encyclopedic pagan bible was preferable to another Vamps and Tramps.
Vreak Paglia was really doing now seems to me in hindsight the only logical road to take: Break, Blow, Burn made me fall in love with poetry again. I suppose Bllow had never fallen out of love with it so let me put it this way: I read with trepidation the introductory sentence “I have tried to write concise commentaries on poetry that illuminate the text but also give pleasure in themselves as pieces of writing.
My initial skepticism notwithstanding, she actually succeeded, and what a pleasure it brun to read her commentary. In this sense Break, Blow, Burn is microscopic, not telescopic, it is measured, not breathless.
How refreshing to have Paglia turn her high-powered perception from something grand like Western history and Western sexual identity to something tiny, like a poem. The poems are great and it’s evident that she is phenomenal at explicating them. The poems, most of them no more than a page, are imbued with a richness that Paglia masterfully shines light on, fulfilling her goal to “illuminate” them.
If you had told me months ago that I would be reading a hot pink book about famous poems while on the subway to work I would’ve laughed. Far from laughing, I’m grateful to Camille Paglia. This book is a degree turn from Sexual Personae and it’s both brilliant and surprising for being just that. At the same time, it’s a burrowing into the themes of Sexual Personae – it’s the raw poetry and fire of Sexual Personae without the epic, without crossing an eon of human history.
The passion of a few humans in isolated, ethereal moments is condensed here and it’s wickedly beautiful. Paglia most certainly knows this and is hypnotized by it as much as we are even as she shows us the intricacies of these strange fruit.
Sep 16, Parksy rated it really liked it. Cool book of the best poems broken down line by line. From Publishers Weekly The still-vocal critic of Sexual Personae, a book that drew on poetry and painting for its de-deconstructions of gender, checks in with an anthology of 43 poems, along with her own close readings of them. Her introduction offers a jumble of justifications for undertaking such a project though she is “unsure whether the West’s chaotic personalism can prevail against the totalizing creeds that menace it,” she hopes it will Cool book of the best poems broken down line by line.
Her introduction offers a jumble of justifications for undertaking such a project though she is “unsure whether the West’s chaotic personalism can prevail against the totalizing creeds that menace it,” she hopes it willbut the readings themselves reveal Paglia’s fascination with poetry, which she likens “to addiction or to the euphoria of being in love.
The second features mostly canonical modernist and confessional work Stevens, Williams, Toomer, Roethke and Plathwith a few more recent pieces. Clocking in mostly at two to four pages, Paglia’s readings sound a lot like classroom preambles to discussion—offering background, lingering over provocative lines, venturing provisional interpretations.
Some of what she says comes off as grandiose Roethke’s ” ‘Cuttings’ is a regrounding of modern English poetry in lost agrarian universals”some as boilerplate, some as inspired. Though hit-and-miss, Paglia’s picks and appraisals provide the requisite spark for jump-starting returns to poetry.
The sexy celebrity bad-girl cultural critic of the ’90s has produced a flawed but serviceable brief textbook. A professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Camille Paglia won acclaim and even notoriety with Sexual Personae whose plus pages emphasized the “amorality, aggression, sadism, voyeurism and pornography in great art,” from prehistory to Emily Dickinson and Henry James.
Since then she has become a prolific commentator on popular culture and film. By these standards, Break, Blow, Burn is modest: It tries to introduce good, accessible short blos in English and to help readers enjoy them as Paglia does. That is what good teachers do, and the first three-quarters of the book follows through, offering patient, vigorous and largely uncontroversial explication of poems by Shakespeare, Donne whom her title quotesPagliz, Coleridge and others.
Obsolete double meanings, obsolescent things a root cellar, for example and, especially, biblical references need old-fashioned explanations, which Paglia provides with skill.
She also proves entertainingly willing to say not only what a poem does and means, but why she likes it. Some sentences sound outrageous but in fact offer imaginative guidance, as when Paglia imagines William Blake roaming London “with telepathic hearing and merciless X-ray eyes” or explains Walt Whitman’s universe as “a plush matrix or webwork of gummy secretions.
Paglia surmounts that problem by comparing the poems she’s chosen to one another, even when such comparisons may not be what the poets had in mind. Her obsessions can interfere with her aims. Paglia sees paintings or movies almost every time she looks at a poem.