Camille Paglia

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Eight

Percy Bysshe Shelley - Ozymandias

One of the poems I clearly recalled by title alone, before even reading a word of it. It was intresting to hear Paglia note that the poet himself only has one line that is obstensibly in his own voice, the rest is information being relayed by the traveller, and then, ultimately, by Ozymandias's words.

I had never picked up on the slight nod to the early sculptor, who was able to ensure the megalomania of his pharoah was properly conveyed in the sculpture and, in fact, is the only thing that remains. I always focused on the bigger more obvious message of the ruler whose empty words have absolutely no weight and have become a warning sign to every ruler who believes in their own importance.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Seven

William Wordsworth - The World Is Too Much With Us

Hmm, neither of today's Wordsworth entries really did all that much for me. In this entry, Wordsworth's isolation while looking out at the sea makes him question the society in which he lives, which is common enough. But I don't know ... nothing here really moved or intrigued me. His desire to live in a pre-Christian Britian, as Paglia deciphers, is something that should interest me, since I tend to be excited by something that questions organized religion in any way, but, it just didn't happen.

Some of the wordplay revealed by Paglia, such as "spending" being a term for ejaculation is informative, but I guess having not had much of a reaction to the poem already, it's too little too late.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Six

William Blake - The Chimney Sweeper

I don't know what it is, but I've always been a sucker for this particular rhyming scheme, a simple AABB throughout. In the hands of Blake, though, it is interesting to contrast the lilt and playful way the words bounce out with what is being said, for this is a poem of young boys forced into endentured service, their small bodies able to get inside old chimneys and clear out the soot.

Paglia pointed out the narrator's lisp, which I missed, probably forgetting the time in which the poem is set and such a world where people would be out shouting about their work offerings. The doublespeak of his inability say sweep all the more tragic when his cries of weep tell society what their proper response to his condition ought to be.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Five

Andrew Marvell - To His Coy Mistress

Nothing like a good "carpe diem" booty call. Obviously the carpe diem "seize the day" stuff is well-known to anyone who, like me, fell in love with Dead Poet's Society and the like, which heaviy leaned on the carpe diem notion.

In this poem, Marvell slowly builds his case for sex. At first, he reinforces how long he would, given an unlimited amount of time, spend discovering the intricacies of his mistress. But, he is quick to point out in the second part, time is limited. Their youth will wither, and death awaits.

Finally, having set his argument up like a finely-tuned legal debate, they should embrace the quick beat of life, the forgone conclusion of time, and consummate their relationship.

Aside from a brief hint of anti-Semitism, this is a lovely poem, on a theme that I've always embraced. There is only now. Tomorrow is not a guarantee, and eventually everyone hits a point of no more tomorrows.

Good stuff, and so nice to finally hit a one-poem day.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Four

George Herbert: Church-monuments

This poem reminds me of the punk-rock band The Pixies. I was never a fan of theirs, but I was a huge fan of many bands that were huge fans of The Pixies. I listened to them, but never really got too into them. When they recently reunited, I went with some friends who were about to have a religious experience, seeing them perform these amazing songs live. I enjoyed it, but to me they sounded derivative.

As you might expect, the ardent Pixies fans were quick to point out that I had it backward. I was a fan of bands who had stolen from The Pixies, so I liked the derivative bands, the Pixies originated this stuff. I don't disagree with that statement, but I still think that whatever you hear later is going to seem derivative to what you heard earlier. So, to me, The Pixies will always sound like they're trying to be Nirvana, even though I've read quotes where Kurt said Nirvana was trying to sound like The Pixies.

So, how does George Herbert fit into all of this?

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Three

William Shakespeare: The Ghost's Speech

While undeniably poetic, with an amazing use of language, symbolism, and all, I guess this didn't have the same oomph to me as a standalone poem. It feels like part of something larger in a way the other works didn't. But I guess that could be a case of what the definition of a poem is, really.

Even in the description, Paglia refers to how certain lines fit into and fulfill ongoing themes within the play as a whole. But, moving past that point, it is very reminiscent of the last work we reviewed by Shakespeare, whereby you can read it through once and immediately understand everything being said. It's probably been so long since I've read Shakespeare, going back to my abandonment of higher education in my teens, that I've carried around ever since the false baggage of its dense wordplay and hard to decipher imagery.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Two

Had some family drama/tragedy this afternoon, so will do The Ghost's Speech as part of tomorrow's batch.

Shakespeare: Sonnet 73

Off to a good start. I'd probably read this before at some point in my life, but it's been way too long to remember when. So I read the sonnet a few times before delving into Paglia's analysis, although it seemed pretty straightforward. Three metaphors for man's life (as a year, a day, and a fire) and then a tag, basically.

Things to note, though. For as much as I recognized when the metaphors switched, as well as knowing the structure of the Shakespearean sonnet, I don't know that I specifically picked up on the "in me" that started each quatrain. Rather, I don't know that I used that phrase to signify the switch to a new metaphor, or whether I used the structure itself to trigger the beats. Something to watch in my close reading, as it is clearly evident upon re-reading.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day One

I don't know if I was ever in love with poetry but, if I had been, the feeling disappeared a long time ago. I remember way back in high school or even college, that I had some slight attraction to the "Romantic" poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Keats being my favorite, although I'd be hard-pressed to recite a single line of "Ode on a Grecian Urn," or come up with a second title of anything he's written.

The last poem I recall reading was probably a few years back, when I was greatly interested in the life and work of Oscar Wilde, and read his Ballad of Reading Gaol.

But there has always been some spark that draws me to poetry, just to tune my nature to the power and beauty that can exist when two words combine to create resonance. I fear, as I work on my novel, that there is a feeling that if you shovel enough prose into a book, your point will definitely find its way in there. And, admittedly, there is more opportunity within the long expanse of a novel to get away with such transgressions. Although my preference is to tighten the book and trust that fewer, more carefully chosen words will always serve me better.

So, my interest in becoming a better student of poetry is to serve my desire to write novels and reinforce the notion that less is almost always better.

Gauging Interest: Month-Long discussion for National Poetry Month?

OK, I was going to do this project for me and my own personal growth, but then I decided: why not make it something a bunch of us can do on the site?

In short, April is National Poetry Month, and I was going to use that occassion to read through Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three Of the World's Best Poems.

Since there's still nearly 2 weeks, it seems like everyone would still have time to buy or check out the book from the library before April 1. We could either make up a schedule in advance to get all 43 in, or just pick 30 of the 43 and do one a day.

Teen Talk with Camille Paglia

By Jeff Walsh

"Are you taping, I hope?" Camille Paglia asks instantly upon answering the phone in her office in the Humanities Department at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Initially, it seems like an odd question, until the rapid-fire magical mystery tour through Paglia's thought process on gay teens begins.

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