March 15, 2005


This rocks. Camille Paglia is putting out a new book of what she considers to be some of the World's best poetry. Today's Telegraph carries a modified version of her introduction to the book.

I have always enjoyed Paglia's writing for its incredible energy and exacting standards. Occasionally she goes 'round the bend on political topics but I can't recall ever having read one of her more academic pieces without having found myself agreeing with a substantial amount of what she has to say. And when she gets her axe out, it is wise for the objects of her criticism to run for it. An example of her thoughts on poetry and its analysis:

Artists are makers, not just mouthers of slippery discourse. Poets are fabricators and engineers, pursuing a craft analogous to cabinetry or bridge building. I maintain that the text emphatically exists as an object; it is not just a mist of ephemeral subjectivities. Every reading is partial, but that does not absolve us from the quest for meaning, which defines us as a species. In writing about a poem, I try to listen to it and find a language and tone that mesh with its own idiom. We live in a time increasingly indifferent to literary style, from the slack prose of once august newspapers to pedestrian translations of the Bible. The internet (which I champion and to which I have extensively contributed) has increased verbal fluency but not quality, at least in its rushed, patchy genres of e-mail and blog. Good writing comes from good reading. All literary criticism should be accessible to the general reader. Criticism at its best is re-creative, not spirit-killing. Technical analysis of a poem is like breaking down a car engine, which has to be reassembled to run again. Theorists childishly smash up their subjects and leave the disjecta membra like litter.


Yips! (again) to Beautifully Atrocious Jeff.

Posted by Robert at March 15, 2005 05:41 PM
Comments frightening, I, too, am a big fan of Camille Paglia

Posted by: Marjorie at March 16, 2005 10:33 AM

I think Paglia's an extremely entertaining writer and speaker, although her manner--and some of her ideas, for that matter--are a bit too gratuitously in-your-face for me to warm up to her. But I've just learned that she'll be here in Madison in late April on her book tour for this very book, which will be most exciting. Cheers!

Posted by: Chan S. at March 16, 2005 01:40 PM
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