MMMarla Muse here!  I’m speaking with Scarriet Baseball Poetry Player Rep Camille Paglia!  Camille, thanks for meeting with me today on this murky mountaintop!

CP: You’re welcome, Marla.  Nice dress!

MM:  Thanks!  Sappho wore it.

CP:  I knew it looked classic.

MM:  Camille, what are your goals as the Scarriet Baseball Poetry Player Rep this season?

CP:  Well Marla, I believe that custodianship, not deconstruction, should be the mission and goal of the humanities.

MM:  Custodianship does seem to be the spirit of Scarriet Baseball Poetry

 CP:  I love baseball!  I love poetry!  My attraction to poetry has always been driven by my love of English.  What fascinated me about English was what I later recognized as its hybrid etymology: blunt Anglo-Saxon concreteness, sleek Norman French urbanity, and polysyllabic Greco-Roman abstraction. The clash of these elements is invigorating, richly entertaining, and often funny, as it is to Shakespeare, who gets tremendous effects out of their interplay. The dazzling multiplicity of sounds and word choices in English make it brilliantly suited to be a language of poetry—and baseball! It’s why the pragmatic Anglo-American tradition (unlike effete French rationalism) doesn’t need poststructuralism: in English, usage depends upon context; the words jostle and provoke one another and mischievously shift their meanings over time.

MM:  Yes!  To fan.  To strike out.  How weird is that?  Now, in your approach to poetry, what “method,” if you’ll forgive that term, do you espouse?

 CP:  I believe that close reading, or what used to be called “explication of text,” not only is the best technique for revealing beauty and meaning in literature but is a superb instrument for the analysis of all art and culture. Through it, one learns how to focus the mind, sharpen perception, and refine emotion.

MM:  Do tell!

CP:  My secular but semimystical view of art is that it taps primal energies, breaks down barriers, and imperiously remakes our settled way of seeing. Animated by the breath force (the original meaning of “spirit” and “inspiration”), poetry brings exhilarating spiritual renewal. A good poem is iridescent and incandescent, catching the light at unexpected angles and illuminating human universals—whose very existence is denied by today’s parochial theorists. Among these looming universals are time and mortality, to which we are all subject.

MM:  I’m certainly subject, especially every morning when I first look in the mirror!  Camille, what in your background has prepared you to be Players’ Rep?

CP:  The foundation of my literary education in college and graduate school in the 1960s was a technique known as the New Criticism, which studied the internal or formal qualities of poetry. I was impatient with what I regarded as its genteel sentimentality, its prim evasion of the sex and aggression in artistic creativity. Urgent supplementation was needed by psychology as well as history, toward which I had been oriented since adolescence, when I began exploring books about Greco-Roman and Near Eastern archeology.

MM:  Interesting, Camille, because Thomas Brady, the sitemeister of the world-famous poetry site Scarriet, is a fierce opponent of the New Critics.

 CP:  The New Critics’ admirable reaction against a prior era of bibliographic pedantry had eventually resulted in an annihilation of context, an orphaning of the text. New Criticism was also hostile or oblivious to popular culture, the master mythology of my postwar generation. For that I had to look to bohemian artists like Andy Warhol or dissident academics like Marshall McLuhan and Leslie Fiedler. But the New Criticism, attuned to paradox and ambiguity, was a sophisticated system of interpretation that has never been surpassed as a pedagogical tool for helping novice as well as veteran readers to understand poetry.

MM:  Hmm, so the New Criticism wasn’t all bad then?

 CP:  The destruction of the New Criticism by the influx of European post-structuralism into American universities in the 1970s was a cultural disaster from which higher education has yet to recover. With its clotted jargon, circular reasoning, and smug, debunking cynicism, post-structuralism works only on narrative—on the longer genres of story and novel. It is helpless with lyric poems, where the individual word has enormous power and mystery and where the senses are played upon by rhythm, mood, and dreamlike metaphors.

MM:  Yes, post-structuralism, a disaster. How few persons kept their sanity in the 1970s!

CP:  Poetry and poetry study were steadily marginalized by pretentious “theory”—which claims to analyze language but atrociously abuses language. Poststructuralism and crusading identity politics led to the gradual sinking in reputation of the premiere literature departments, so that by the turn of the millennium, they were no longer seen even by the undergraduates themselves to be where the excitement was on campus. One result of this triumph of ideology over art is that, on the basis of their publications, few literature professors know how to “read” anymore—and thus can scarcely be trusted to teach that skill to their students. Cultural studies, for example, despite its auspicious name, has been undone by its programmatic Marxism and is a morass of misreadings or overreadings.

MM:  I know you have a deep affection, even love, for the artist and poet.

CP:  I revere the artist and the poet, who are so ruthlessly “exposed” by the sneering poststructuralists with their political agenda. There is no “death of the author” (that Parisian cliché) in my world-view.   There’s no death of the hitter, or the pitcher.  They are timeless.

 MM:  Yes, absolutely.  Will you defend the integrity of all the players involved in Scarriet Baseball Poetry?  Even the author of the whole concept himself, Thomas Brady?

CP:  Authors strive and create against every impediment, including their doubters and detractors.

 MM:  There are so many!  Doubters and detractors, I mean.  But I understand Thomas Brady is a fan of yours.

CP:  I know.  He wrote me a poem once.  Poets speak even when they know their words will be swept away by the wind. I lost his poem.  But look, Marla, in college Greek class, I was amazed by the fragments of archaic poetry—sometimes just a surviving phrase or line—that vividly conveyed the sharp personalities of their authors, figures like Archilocus, Alcman, and Ibycus, about whom little is known. The continuity of Western culture is demonstrated by lyric poetry, which from its birth in ancient Greece has played so significant a role in the emergence of nationalism, spawning in turn our concept of civil rights.

MM:  Ah, yes, the Hartford Whittiers!  But that whole tradition is imperiled now?

 CP:  As a student of ancient empires, I am uncertain about whether the West’s chaotic personalism can prevail against the totalizing creeds that menace it. Hence it is critical that we reinforce the spiritual values of Western art, however we define them.

MM:  “Chaotic personalism,” I like that!  I like to say the East is Confucianist and meditationist, the West is confusionist and medicationist.  Tell us some more of your background, Camille.

CP:  At Harpur College (my alma mater at the State University of New York at Binghamton), I took courses in Metaphysical poetry and John Milton from an expert in seventeenth-century literature, Arthur L. Clements, whose close readings and innovative integration of Western and Asian religions made a deep impact on me. I had what can only be described as a conversion experience in the classes of Milton Kessler, a poet who had been a student of Theodore Roethke at the University of Washington. I took or audited four of his courses: “Introduction to Poetry,” “Visionary Poets,” “Poetry as Play,” and “The Confessional Poets.” Kessler’s theory of poetry was based on sensory response and body rhythms. Partly because he had been trained in voice and opera, he endorsed emotional directness and amplitude in art. His classroom explications were dramatic, celebratory, and ingeniously associative, bringing EVERYTHING to bear on the text. That intense way of reading poetry was definitely not the norm in graduate school. The first paper I submitted at Yale (“Exoticism in Wallace Stevens”) came back with the dismissive note that it was a “qualitative appreciation, which we find so often in reviews of contemporary poetry.”

MM:  That reminds me, Camille, of a story Page Smith used to tell. He submitted a thesis and it was rejected because it was too interesting to read—he was told to make it more dry and boring!

CP:  The next stage in my comprehension of poetry came from Harold Bloom, whom I did not know (I had never taken his seminars) until I was drafting the prospectus for my doctoral thesis, then titled “The Androgynous Dream” but later called Sexual Personae. Hearing of my psychoanalytic topic via the grad student grapevine, Bloom summoned me to his office and offered to be my advisor. He announced, “My dear, I am the only one who can direct that dissertation!” And of course he was right.

 MM:  Yes, and Harold Bloom is, of course, Scarriet Poetry Baseball Commissioner this season.

CP Bloom’s massive, interdisciplinary erudition and electrifying insights into the spiritual dimension of literature were exactly what I needed for the development of my work. He was then the scholar who had revolutionized Romantic studies with his extraordinary books on Blake and Shelley. It was several years before he published The Anxiety of Influence, the book that made him an international celebrity.

MM:  It sounds like you and the Commish have always been in agreement.

CP:  Though he was tartly skeptical of my zeal for mass media, I found Bloom’s thinking otherwise completely in sync with the neo-Romanticism of the sixties’ cultural insurgency. Both Bloom and Kessler, with their profound empathy and fiery, prophetic temperaments, seemed to me more visionary rabbis than professors.

MM:  Are there any differences you have with the Commish?

CP:  The case of Sylvia Plath illustrates the signal differences between Bloom’s critical code and mine: he has colorfully rejected her work, while I have elsewhere called “Daddy” a central poem of the twentieth century.

MMPlath is playing terrific outfield this year for the Amherst Emily in the AL for Scarriet Baseball Poetry.  Camille, what drew you to this job?  What made you decide to take it?

CP:  My attentiveness to the American vernacular has made me restive with the current state of poetry. I find too much work by the most acclaimed poets labored, affected and verbose, intended not to communicate with the general audience but to impress their fellow poets. Poetic language has become stale and derivative, even when it makes all-too-familiar avant-garde or ethnic gestures.

MM:  Yes, stale and derivative.

CP:  Poetry’s declining status has made its embattled practitioners insular and self-protective: personal friendships have spawned cliques and coteries in book and magazine publishing, prize committees, and grants organizations.

MM:  Yes, that drum is beaten at Scarriet daily!

CP:  Our most honored poets are gifted and prolific, but we have come to respect them for their intelligence, commitment, and the BODY of their work. They ceased focusing long ago on production of the powerful, distinctive, self-contained poem. They have lost ambition and no longer believe they can or should speak for their era. Elevating process over form, they treat their poems like meandering diary entries and craft them for effect in live readings rather than on the page.

MM:  Right, so true!

 CP:  Arresting themes or images are proposed, then dropped or left to dribble away. Or, in a sign of lack of confidence in the reader or material, suggestive points are prosaically rephrased and hammered into obviousness. Rote formulas are rampant—a lugubrious victimology of accident, disease, and depression or a simplistic ranting politics (people good, government bad) that looks naïve next to the incisive writing about politics on today’s op-ed pages.

MM:  κάνετε θαυμάσιο τον πιό θαυμάσιο!  Camille, we must break for a commercial, but we’ll be right back after this word from Silliman’s Blog….

Part 2 of the interview can be found at



  1. Bob Tonucci said,

    May 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

    “Kill the imagination, lobotomize the brain, castrate and operate: then the sexes will be the same.” — Camille Paglia

  2. Anne Cimon said,

    June 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    What a brilliant analysis of the ills of academic poetry!

  3. Bob Tonucci said,

    June 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    All the points made by Ms. Paglia in this “interview” are taken directly from her introduction to her book Break, Blow, Burn.

  4. October 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Players’ Rep. Paglia
    Back with a interview—
    Re: Naomi Wolf’s Vagina,
    She gives a good skew:

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Paglia’s back and it’s about time!
      Gossip enough for a Marcus Bales rhyme!
      Back in the 80s, when Harold Bloom abused Poe
      Bloom touched Naomi’s thigh (Wolfe let the world know);
      Paglia counts Bloom as a supportive prof,
      So it’s no surprise the gloves are coming off.

      • noochinator said,

        October 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

        Real Wives is her fave TV,
        And she doesn’t care for Mad Men
        My tastes are the exact reverse—
        I feel numbered among the bad men.

        • thomasbrady said,

          October 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

          I’m with Paglia—Mad Men and Sopranos leave me cold.
          Perhaps I’m not impressed with the art of the actor,
          Or tales with scripts and costumes told;
          Last night I was glued to the X Factor.

  5. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 12, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    While I appreciate the link and the timeliness of it very much I’ve never ever been a fan of CP. At all. I wrote my poem because I couldn’t stand what anyone else was saying about David Bowie I was reading, despite the heartfeltness of all the tributes because I felt like something was missing. So I wrote my poem to try to find out for myself, in myself the missing thing but I still didn’t find it. He was interpreted in a lot of ways like Andy Warhol was but something else was going on, at least I always felt and still feel that way, something about as outsider of pop culture, psychology as you can possibly get even though he was using a lot of the flash, pop and sparkle of the times, it was layered with stuff that had nothing to do with the contemporary scene, both in his voice, his theatricality and his singing voice as it altered to fit the shape of what he was doing that he didn’t even know he was doing. I could be wrong but it just feels that way to me.

  6. thomasbrady said,

    January 12, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Hero worship is kind of silly. Bowie used a lot of other people’s material, other people’s riffs. Which is fine. A nice act. Paglia tends to see great hunks of meaning where there really isn’t anything. Paglia is best for her critique of academia, her interest in the sweep of history, and that’s about it.

    I never liked “Young Americans.” That song always annoyed me. “Space Oddity,” on the other hand: very, very nice. “Heroes” is great, but isn’t the driving beat/texture/rhythm of the song exactly like the second track of Velvet Underground’s most important album, slowed down a little, with a nice treble part added? We can be heroes. Yea, I like it.

  7. noochinator said,

    January 12, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    I always liked this one, despite (or because of? Perish the thought!) its homoerotic vibe:

  8. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 12, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    I guess that’s one of the mysteries. Everyone hears, reads, thinks something different, but the song itself is just itself free from all that.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      January 12, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      This is supposed to be the lyrics to his last song (from the album “Blackstar” that came out on Friday. I haven’t found the video yet.


      (by David Bowie)

      Past the cheerless towns
      Past my window
      I can see a washed-out moon
      Through the fog

      And then a voice inside my head
      Breaks the analog
      And says
      Follow me down, to the valley below
      You know
      Moonlight is bleeding
      From out of your soul

      I survived against the will
      Of my twisted folk
      But in the deafness of my world
      The silence broke

      Follow me down, to the valley below
      You know
      Moonlight is bleeding
      From out of your soul

      Follow me down, to the valley below
      You know
      Moonlight is bleeding
      From out of your soul

      My David don’t you worry
      This cold world is not for you
      So rest your head upon me
      I have strength to carry you

      Those are the twenties rising
      Golden sun is just for you

      Follow me down, to the valley below
      You know
      Moonlight is bleeding
      From out of your soul

      Follow me down, to the valley below
      You know
      Moonlight is bleeding
      From out of your soul

      Come to us
      It’s time for you to go

  9. noochinator said,

    February 4, 2016 at 1:30 am


    In Cooperstown did Doubleday
    The game of baseball dedicate;
    In pastures did the fielders play
    With splintered bats and balls like clay
    And pie-tins for home plate.

    The early game was quite a thrill,
    Which made the local fans agree
    That though the players might lack skill
    And second base was on a hill,
    The sport was fun to see.

    The game has changed from days of yore,
    With sliders slicing past each bat,
    With players hitting .204,
    And fifteen innings with no score,
    And dreadful things like that.

    In sterile domes the public sees
    The game played on a sunless field,
    With unforeseen calamities,
    Like twisted legs and torn-up knees,
    From turf that doesn’t yield.

    Rich superstars now reign supreme,
    Each season holding out for more;
    Though once we held them in esteem,
    They leap with greed from team to team
    As ticket prices soar.

    The cheated fans, it’s they who pay
    As down the twisted path they’re led,
    Which makes me think if Doubleday
    The grand old game could now survey,
    He’d take up golf instead.

    Frank Jacobs

  10. Andrew said,

    February 5, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Noochinator –
    can we read YOUR original compositions anywhere besides Scarriet ?
    (you are good at posting other peoples stuff…)

    • noochinator said,

      February 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Scarriet is the only place that will take me. Here’s one of my goodies:

      Tertiary Sex Characteristics

      For a woman it’s about the children,
      And their connexion to her—
      For a man it’s about the potency,
      And remaining an erection doer.

      And another:


      Each partner should be the key
      That fits the other partner’s lock—
      Great beauty could be essential,
      Or it could be a superfluous crock—

      For varied are the aspects
      Of a healthy human creature—
      Solicitude, the meeting of needs
      Matter more than fairness of feature.

      And here’s my all-time classic — I want it engraved on my “wombstone”:


      (for Frank Jacobs, with deepest apologies to Joyce Kilmer)

      I think that I shall never have
      A thing as lovely as a vaj.

      A vaj that opens to quell strife
      A vaj that opens to give life;

      A vaj that winks at God all day,
      And seems with lovely lips to pray;

      That vaj so lovely doth appear
      In cotton, satin, nylon sheer;

      That vaj doth God and nature please;
      When living beings it doth release.

      Surgeons think that they can cadge,
      But only God can make a vaj.

      • Andrew said,

        February 5, 2016 at 7:09 pm

        ¡ VIVA la VAJ !

        • noochinator said,

          February 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm

          I’m still waiting for it to be included in a Best American Poetry volume — maybe I need a Chinese pseudonym…..

          • Andrew said,

            February 5, 2016 at 7:28 pm

            Make sure to capitalize on your ethnic grievances and I am SURE you’ll get published !

      • Andrew said,

        February 5, 2016 at 7:35 pm

        Here, the bifurcated portal
        gateway of expanding life
        smiles rebirth – transcends the Mortal
        splits the double “you” of wife.

        Hail the great democratizer;
        let us all salute the Queen –
        Mankind’s rosy equalizer:
        She Whose Splendor Reigns Unseen.

        Treasure trove of procreation,
        tunnel of love and fleshly muse,
        membrane of illumination,
        countryside’s exciting views…

        Organ played to heights celestial,
        bio-rhapsody exposed
        proving that our best is bestial
        and our earthly home foreclosed:

        Grant us now behold thy beauty,
        worship at thy humid throne.
        Let mankind discharge his duty
        in your sacred pleasure-zone.

        Though Somali blades despise you,
        though your maidenhood offends,
        Egypt’s night will not disguise you
        nor separate you from your friends.

        • noochinator said,

          February 5, 2016 at 11:55 pm

          As Scarriet Baseball Commissioner Paglia’s personal assistant (in my dreams, anyway), I heartily approve this paean, and toast it with a glass of Glenlivet (the single malt of the working class).

          Speaking of single malt: I can’t get any excitement up for travel and vacations, but these are some tours I could get it up for:

          • Andrew said,

            February 6, 2016 at 12:35 am

            Usquebaugh !

            • noochinator said,

              February 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm

              A bootyful name for a bootyful thang….

  11. Andrew said,

    February 5, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    [Ah, yes, the Hartford Whittiers! But that whole tradition is imperiled now?]

    Snow-Bound was a bestseller in its day. John Greenleaf Whittier earned significant income on its brisk sales.
    Since today is a snow day in New England, I dare you to read the entire poem:

  12. noochinator said,

    April 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    From Scarriet Baseball Players’ Rep. Paglia’s latest column:

    “My position on abortion is contained in my manifesto, ‘No Law in the Arena,’ from my second essay collection, Vamps & Tramps< (1994): 'Women’s modern liberation is inextricably linked to their ability to control reproduction, which has enslaved them from the origin of the species.' However, I argue that our real oppressor is not men or society but nature—the biological imperative that second-wave feminism and campus gender studies still refuse to acknowledge. Sex is nature’s way—coercive, prankish, and pleasurable—of ensuring survival of the species. But in eras of overpopulation, those pleasures spill into a multitude of directions to slow or halt procreation—which is why I maintain that homosexuality is not a violation of natural law but its fulfillment, when history wills it."

    Full column at:

  13. noochinator said,

    May 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Hot off the server: C. Paglia does a sit-down with the ‘Washington Free Beacon’:

    • thomasbrady said,

      May 17, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks, Nooch. This is a good interview. Classic Paglia.

  14. noochinator said,

    May 29, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    From the vaults! The long-ago year of 1994, Camille in her wild period:

  15. noochinator said,

    October 6, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Who has time for ‘The Hollywood Reporter’? I do when Camille appears, here praising Hef:

  16. Mr. Woo said,

    October 6, 2017 at 1:58 pm


    If you haven’t seen this already, a robust conversation between Paglia and Jordan Peterson:

    • noochinator said,

      October 6, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks so much for this link, Mr. Woo!
      I love them both—all they say, all they do!

  17. noochinator said,

    October 8, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I’m hoping Camille will weigh in on l’affaire Weinstein—although I’m guessing she’d take his side!

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      I don’t think Camille would defend his behavior. I think this scandal would bring out her “Auntie Camille” who warns women about the dangers of the open lifestyle, which exists for men like Hefner and Weinstein, and no one else. Camille would probably ask, where was Harvey’s wife? Why was she letting this happen? How does this look to their children? Then she would give an example from the 1950s of a celebrity marriage battle with passion and longing on both sides. In addition, she would call out the hypocritical Hollywood feminists’ silence and support. She would say Harvey Weinstein exists because strong women and family endearments don’t exist in the phony “strong women” Leftist, Hollywood universe.

      • noochinator said,

        October 10, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        I love it: a Camille-by-the-numbers prediction!
        You’ve caught well her tone, her content and diction!

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