Wednesday, November 10, 2004

NEW! Review of Xantippe

Xantippe #2. $10.

Reviewed by Raechel Anglin

Xantippe: for a magazine whose name references the fifth-century wife of Socrates, known as a scolding shrew, this youthful magazine is a delightfully open, wide-ranging, and accepting adventure in poetry. In its second issue, Xantippe presents the poetry of twenty authors, ranging from the newly published to the poetically established, and concludes with five poetry reviews. On its title page, Xantippe declares itself out of Oakland, California; comfortable in its location, the magazine is brimming with Californian writers, including Julie Carr and Jennifer Scappertone. Not to suggest that Xantippe is geographically limited, as poetry hails from Paris, New York, Colorado. More importantly, Xantippe evidences a breadth of poetic styles.

Sleek in its photographic black and white cover and metallic blue typeset, Xantippe seems to advertise a smooth ride through its pages, which it delivers. Given that the cover’s photo issues from an apparently abandoned suburban setting that is “Quitting, Closing, Moving to Baghdad,” one might be worried that the poetry will also be vaguely political. Xantippe, however, focuses on narrative, language, and style, not a political agenda. Reaching Laynie Browne’s “Welcome 67946, Looting,” a poem with a directly political theme, refreshes and fulfills the cover-art promise, without overbearing election-year yammering.

Overall, Xantippe evinces a flair for the philosophical question, a conceptual interest in endings, and a welcome focus on the poetic sequence. Opening with five poems by Killarney Clary, this issue offers charm in delicate prose poems, as well as a poetic introduction to “telling,” to “Charts outside of saying,” to “Not rush hour--not any hour really--the ordinary wonder of people going one way or another.” Xantippe moves through the ordinary, through detail that often feels concrete and honest, even in syntactic disjunction and dissolution. In her second poem, Clary queries: “What is weight? The cab smells like honey.” Here, she exemplifies Xantippe’s interest in balancing questioning with the tangible. When Clary says, “born with a tendency to laugh, born smart, born at least,” she could be speaking about Xantippe.

Highlights of this issue include:

Joseph Lease’s poem “My Sister Life,” which skims through metaphor, is light-filled and fulfilling. Lease also offers the first sequence of the magazine, “Self-Portrait as the Downhill Slide,” an approachable experience of narrative build-up. He paves the way for Carol Snow’s “from Karesansui” and Donna de la Perriere’s “Occupational Marks and Other Signs,” among other poetic sequences.

Julie Carr’s selections from Mead: An Epithalamion are dramatically diverse, including fantastic lines like “I thought of you as a circle caught within a rectangle, / which meant there was space around you but you couldn’t get to it.” Her poems are feminine and observant, sketched across “a permanently ruptured sky.”

Laura Mullen’s “A Noun’s Meant” is the longest selection in Xantippe, and it earns its space. Mullen dances with and across narrative, so that:
You are reading
                   broken into
What we see her seeing what she sees

In what might otherwise be taken for a declaration            shining a
division representing breath guides another arc . . .

Denise Newman’s poem “Good Zeal,” a lovely exploration in narrative, builds through beautiful clarity:
not that I’m in hell
there’s just no where private
to cry, so I must let him hug me with the wet
yellow rubber gloves waiting by the sink
into a devastating poem that is “a peak of pleasure.

Glen C. Silva’s review of The Frequencies by Noah Eli Gordon is daring in voice and completely engaging. He instructs, “Put on your favorite record or radio station, open this book, and dance,” and after his hopeful and humorous review, we are inclined to do so.

Other highlights include Geoffrey Nutter’s “Journey by Train”; Tom Thompson’s “Mode et Accessoires Femmes”; and Elizabeth Robinson’s “Tracks.”

Xantippe is a solid new magazine, which manages both to explore its sense of self and to retain an awareness of its innocence--an equilibrium that produces enjoyable reading. At $10, Xantippe is well worth ordering from or Xantippe, P.O Box 20997, Oakland, CA 94620-0997.

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