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This article is taken from PN Review 128, Volume 25 Number 6, July - August 1999.

Meadowlands: Trustworthy Speakers Bonnie Costello

In Ararat Louise Glück gives us a version of the Cretan's paradox: 'Don't listen to me; my heart's been broken. / I don't see anything objectively.' The poem is called 'The Untrustworthy Speaker', but of course we do listen and we do trust, because the poet knows her own distortions and because distortions, ordered by art, reveal what is hidden by the normative. Glück is enough of a modernist to believe in a separation of personality and artistic genius. The artist uses the self as a 'lightning rod' of experience, but then gathers that energy into the production of a truth which is not exclusively of experience or of the self. That untrustworthy speaker can be traced to Glück earliest volume, though she has only gradually been mastered by the trustworthy poet. Much of the energy of Glück's early work comes from its way of understanding everything in terms of the self, and therefore identifying poetic truth with selfabsorption. And what else should we expect from a firstborn? But early on, too, Glück laboured towards another kind of truth, introducing alternative standards of measurement, and artistic methods - description, myth, persona - that involved detours from the circle of self-regard. In Meadowlands that detour has turned onto a whole new landscape, where narrative and dialogue expand the vista of the lyric. The speakers of Meadowlands are not objective - they grieve, rage, seduce, betray - but in the disciplined world of the poems they are trustworthy.

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