Break, Blow, Burn
Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems
America’s most provocative intellectual brings her blazing powers of analysis to the most famous poems of the Western tradition—and unearths some previously obscure verses worthy of a place in our canon. Combining close reading with a panoramic breadth of learning, Camille Paglia sharpens our understanding of poems we thought we knew, from Shakespeare to Dickinson to Plath, and makes a case for including in the canon works by Paul Blackburn, Wanda Coleman, Chuck Wachtel, Rochelle Kraut—and even Joni Mitchell. Daring, riveting, and beautifully written, Break, Blow, Burn is a modern classic that excites even seasoned poetry lovers—and continues to create generations of new ones.
READ AN EXCERPT
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the...
“She flies as high as you can go. . . . Bold and convincing. . . . Exemplary. . . . A rich book.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“The chapter on Sylvia Plath’s ‘Daddy’ will take the top of your head off!” –James Wolcott
“As entertaining as it is dazzingly erudite, Break, Blow, Burn is capable of re-energizing any reader’s engagement with poetry.”
–Francine du Plessix Gray, The Week
“I hope a lot of people read this book. . . . There wasn’t a commentary where I didn’t learn something about the poem in question, no matter how familiar the poem was.” –Philip Marchand, Toronto Star
“It will have students storming the walls of tomorrow’s English departments, mad for poetry again.” –St. Petersburg Times
“Dazzling. . . . Bursts with her ingenuity. . . . Brilliant insights . . . permeate the book. . . . Readers receive a marvelous education.”
–Rocky Mountain News
“Paglia’s vision is always fresh. . . . She makes a fascinating and challenging reading companion. These essays will inspire anyone to turn back to poetry again.” –The Times (London)