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This review is taken from PN Review 115, Volume 23 Number 5, May - June 1997.

HOME TRUTHS LOUISE GLÜCK, Meadowlands (The Ecco Press)

It takes a brave (or forgetful!) poet to disregard her own advice. Louise Glück has written of that 'most depressing of strategies, the obligatory elevation of the quotidian via mythic analogy'. Yet in Meadowlands Glück attempts just that by interweaving poems of Odysseus's family with those of a bickering, increasingly awful contemporary married couple. Elevation? Or, since Glück is intelligent and hyper-selfconscious, does Meadowlands signal her intention to permit the reverse of her stricture in order to make the mythic quotidian? For Glück is not interested in myths. But she is interested in the human and familial consequences of believing in them. Glück has written that 'Religion documents the relation of affliction to ecstasy.' Really? It seems to me a peculiarly modern notion that religion (or myth) 'documents' anything. And surely it's psychology which links affliction to religious ecstasy. In Meadowlands, myth and ecstasy, in both style and substance, are absent. Gluck's emotional and physical landscape are the stigmata of affliction. The 'Meadowlands' of her title is the name of the 70,000 seat stadium, stuck in New Jersey's industrial wasteland, where the New York Jets and Giants play American football on Astroturf. A cockpit, like families, for the infliction of pain.

Glück writes that she is happiest with a sparse, pared down, minimalist style; lacunae to the point of vanishing: 'I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to eloquent, deliberate silence.' Glück makes her point about how incompletion or ruins powerfully suggest not just the completed ...


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