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Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems Paperback – January 24, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Paglia is captivated by poetry. The reader's interest develops when she carefully (maybe a little dryly) commentates on one poem at a time - avoiding general brushstrokes as she identifies the subtleties from various lines. As it's been said, "from this book you could doubt several aspects of her taste in poetry. But you couldn't doubt her love of it."
You can hear Paglia's disappointment when she writes, "Along the way I've encountered so many people in the publishing world, in magazines, who said to me, you know, 'I always keep up with the new novels, but not poetry.' These are really literary people, and even they feel poetry no longer speaks to them."
Paglia suggests an explanation for the decline in the love of poetry, "Thanks to 25 years of post-structuralism in our elite colleges, we have this idea now that you are supposed to use your pseudo-sociological critical eye to look down on the work and find everything that's wrong with it," ...this style of teaching just nips students' enthusiasm in the bud."
However, her statement is tempered by what I appreciate most - her discrimination regarding true talent and her lack of tolerance for those poetry artists who insist on using it as an instrument of civil rights - while at the same time lacking excellence in their work.Read more ›
Anyway, I enjoyed the book. Paglia has chosen 43 of what she describes as the world's best poems. Not the top 43 it should be said. Her choice is eclectic, as mine or yours would be. Some I endorse, others not. Her close reading of them is enjoyable, intelligent, well written and occasionally enlightening. I disagree with many of the conclusions she draws, and so would you, probably, but I find reading another insight to be of value and that, again occasionally, they modify my own view. What more could you ask.
Paglia is not a great proponent of contemporary poetry and the latest she includes are the lyrics to Woodstock by Joni Mitchell.
The Washington Post review included at Amazon considers that the book will not satisfy readers acquainted with the dead poets she includes. If correct, that is a pity. Those of us that spend much time with long dead poets do tend to achieve a world view of the poet that becomes immutable. Our loss, and to read other views is invaluable, for me at least. Perhaps he complains of a lack of depth, personally I am all for brevity and clarity rather than the mystery that some critics feel is necessary. Of course, what review would be complete without the need to demonstrate the author's ignorance and the reviewer's wisdom. The errors that Stephen Burt picks out are hardly material and a wiser reviewer would have omitted them.
I am glad I bought it and glad I read it.
My mother sent me this book after I discovered a latent admiration and adoration of Edmund Spenser, and for that matter, all structured poetry. (never been a big fan of all that mindless crap that so-called poets are constantly spewing.)
Her advice was to read "The Faerie Queene" in conjunction with "Sexual Personae", advice which I gratefully (if a bit cautiously) took... after all she is my mother and not entirely "with the times" per se.
And thus, my discovery of Camille Paglia (and since I am not as old as some of the other reviewers and was born WAAAAAY after whatever controversy she was involved in, and I simply don't know for god's sake I'm only 20). I find her to be witty and intelligent as well as eloquent, with a deliciously fine grasp of language. Her writing style alone makes this book enjoyable.
However, (isn't there always a 'however'?) as she puts it, the poems in the book are HER choices and since choice signifies subjectivism it is safe to say that not everyone will agree as to the A) importance and B) prominence of said poems. That may seem redundant, however it is not.
Also, she specifically states that ALL of the poems are originally written in ENGLISH. Thus there is no Baudelaire. No Petrarch (I'm 99% certain I misspelled that but I'm too lazy to check). In fact, not a single "multicultural" poem in the lot. If you take issue with that then you should look at something else to read.
I would recommend this book. I certainly find it delightful (and her critiques are well thought out and well executed, none of that high-brow, ivory tower academic nonsense). I quite like this book and have decided to read through all the rest of her writings.
but then again, I'm only twenty and not exactly an authority on these matters.
p.s. I'd give the book more stars but I'd like to re-read it first...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reading this book is like going to a Paglia lecture and instead of hearing a word she says you get caught up in the eccentric sitting next to you babbling a nearly incoherent... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Victoria Heal
I thought she was supposed to be an intellectual. I couldn't get through the second poem. Shallow as hell...who is she kidding. Read morePublished 1 month ago by boscodamus
Great book to learn and love (or vice versa) English as a second language. And thus develop passion for English literature as well. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Anna Nekrylova
Paglia's precise and often gracious readings of these poems (her choices, with a careful afterword explaining why) rather than lengthy academic folderol mark this collection as my... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Larry Woiwode
Love this book. Paglia is contrarian and smart. Her essays are intriguing. I use them in my AP Lit class to help students develop awareness of both voice and critical approaches. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Elizabeth B.
a poetry class with an erudite no nonsense teacher--that you don't have to get up at 8 for and for which you are not graded! Read morePublished 15 months ago by S. Chatterjee
Sometimes Paglia goes a bit far in her interpretations, it seems. It's a great book to have with you when you want to read and then read about one poem. Read morePublished on January 18, 2014 by Claire S. Warren
One does not have to agree with Dr. Paglia's politics or social views to appreciate the depth of scholarship found her observations of these important works. Read morePublished on January 11, 2013 by Ralph H. Didlake