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Xanax Cowboy

by Hannah Green


In this cinematic debut poetry collection, Hannah Green features the Xanax Cowboy (XC) as the main character of a metadrama of anxiety and its effects. In Green’s impressive character study of existential complexity and societal commentary, XC teems with honesty and wit. Irony pervades this stark confessional from the opening: “I don’t want to look the truth in its ugly doe eyes. / I’d rather pretend I’m going to feel this good forever.” Yet, the truth is exactly what is investigated at its raw core. 

The main actor, “I like the pronoun it,” enters stage left, in full costume revealing the crux of the drama. “It’s not me that needs the company, it’s the misery. . . . Cowboys don’t need to learn to love themselves. To come home to themselves.” XC goes on to enact the ways the medical system objectifies, experiments with, and places the heavier burdens on women, quoting a line from Michael Ondaatje, “In Boot Hill there are only two graves that belong to women / and they are the only known suicides in that graveyard” and a subtle reworking of Plath’s “I Am I Am I Am.”  This broad-sweep allegory focuses on the effects of living with anxiety, then attends precisely and microscopically to the experience of the main actor: “I can hear myself blinking.” 

In cinema, control of the camera is paramount and Green displays exceptional skill with scene building through macro and micro focus on the dissociated narrator who is both the actor and the acted upon through experimentation, at both the level of self – “I am writing a book / called XANAX COWBOY while I slip into the leather chaps / of character” – and by the medical system that regards women as objects.  

Throughout, XC is vulnerable and clear. Questions of authenticity and existentialism rise so subtly and effectively throughout the narrative of anxiety that “It is impossible to separate the actual person from these narratives.” At one point, XC even refers to the drama as “Schrödinger’s Western.” It isn’t until The Motion Picture, distinctive sections where stage directions for scenes from XC’s film are outlined, that the narration shifts to Green from XC. Lies and truth are called into question in various ways through the lens of this unreliable and yet hyper-reliable narrator who claims in another inebriated state, “it is easy to convince my mother / I am fine. There is so much weather to talk about.”

Just as William Wordsworth states that poetry is emotion reflected in tranquility, the wisdom and hope of the Xanax Cowboy coalesce, not through the eyes of the cowboy, but rather through the eyes of the mother, who has been placed just out of view, as the audience and witness to the dramatis persona. Here, we are relieved by the closing lines and promises made: “there is still so much I have to say, you can trust me.” 

Green’s debut is timely and witty. It leaves nothing off stage, hides nothing. It is a revelation of living in our anxious times. It is wisely engaging.


Reviewer: Micheline Maylor

Publisher: House of Anansi Press


Price: $19.99

Page Count: 128 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-4870-1115-4

Released: April

Issue Date: April 2023

Categories: Poetry, Reviews

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