Two Micro-reviews of Texture Books by Guest Blogger Ann Howells
Texture Press (2013)
This collection, written by former prison chaplain Rina Terry, presents the varied voices of men in the system, opening with the poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Inmates,” which offers a panoramic overview of what is to come. It gives not only physical descriptions of inmates, Handcuffed and shackled/ shuffling, but of orientation, An inmate/ is an inmate/ is an inmate. It speaks in the voices of blues and prisoners in solitary confinement. No one is spared examination: not guards, nurses, wives, pen-pals, or, of course, inmates—some brutal, others merely ignorant or socially impoverished. Many poems are difficult to read like “The Counselor Dreams” in which an inmate rationalizes and swaggers his way through his life story.
my first child when I was a child, right, you know
what I’m sayin’, right Rev; I shot my first person
when I was . . . should I be tellin’ you this? You said
it’s in confidence right? Well, she did the best she could
right? My mother, right, like I been tellin’ you,
she did the best she could, you know what I’m sayin’
and my little brother, he couldn’t do nothin’ wrong
and I couldn’t do nothin’ right . . .
Other poems are unbelievably poignant like “Whenever Two Or More Are Gathered . . .’ and “Cardboard Piano,” a truly unforgettable poem. These poems will lodge themselves in your mind, as persistent and uncomfortable as a fishbone in your throat.
You As Poems
Texture Press (2013)
Relying on image and an almost stream of consciousness intuition, Ms. Hunter’s poems employ subtlety, wordplay (pale/pail) and quotes from diverse sources (the turkey who lives on the hill from “The Owl and the Pussycat.”) Many contain word or short phrases in Spanish, either translatable through context or explained in a following line.
Perhaps my favorite poem, “You As Cockfight,” presents a man, Rooster, alongside the fighting cocks of Las Juntas. Descriptions of each seem to apply equally to the other. In many of Ms. Hunter’s poems, descriptions transfer easily from object to person to creature and back. We view the beloved not through the image of the object/place/creature, but as interchangeable with it. Readers must trust the poet and accept her leaps, as in “You As Levels” (… familiar eyes like a fish tank or measuring cup).
Written while Ms. Hunter resided in Puerto Vallarta, each poem views the beloved as a disparate object/creature/place. Not a book to be easily digested, each poem, with its strong use of metaphor and simile, unfolds slowly, revealing a bit more with each subsequent reading. Take time to savor these poems.
Ann Howells is a longtime member of Dallas Poets Community. She has served on its board since it incorporated, as president from 2009-2012. She has edited Illya’s Honey for fourteen years. In 2009, she took 1st place in The Legendary’s Bukowski Contest. She was a finalist in 2008 NavWorks Poetry Competition and in Southern Hum’s 2007 Women of Words. Her chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published by Main Street Rag (2007) and a limited edition chapbook, the Rosebud Diaries, by Willett Press (2012). In 2006, she took 1st in Southwest Writers’ Club Poetry Competition. She has had her work read on NPR (Atlanta) and been twice nominated for a Pushcart, once for a Best of the Web. Her work appears in many small press and university journals and anthologies, including Borderlands, Calyx, Crannog (Ire.), Free State Review, and RiverSedge.