Ann Howells Reviews Terry and Hunter

Two Micro-reviews of Texture Books by Guest Blogger Ann Howells

Rina Terry
Cardboard Piano

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.

                                                                        I had
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.


Rose Hunter
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
Editor—Illya’s Honey
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.

“Susan” (by Rina Terry)


Blonde as summer on the Cape,
A Vineyard wanna-be. Enough
money to dress well, eat well;
just enough panache to know
it isn’t enough to meet the guy
who owns a yacht, pays a tailor
to stitch his shirts and jackets.

She sails well, knows fore
from aft but say futtock
and she is offended. Awash
much of the time. Vacation
the fulcrum of every conversation,
every shopkeeper sees her
coming. Her Visa and MasterCard
their most intimate friends.

This poem appears in Poems for the Writing, in the “SPIRIT OF NAMES” chapter. Used by permission of Rina Terry.

How Layered Experience Becomes Art (by Rina Terry)

rina for p1

Reading historical fiction is a favorite pastime and it definitely informed the writing of Cardboard Piano, my forthcoming book from Texture Press. As a young girl, I read the book Desiree by Annemarie Selenko. Over the years, I read it several times and became a devotee of Napoleonic history. On my first visit to Paris it was The Dôme des Invalides (containing Napoleon I’s tomb), which was my favorite tourist attraction.

I believe it is the lure of historical fiction that moved me to write of my experiences as a state prison chaplain. The actual experience of spending years inside such an institution changes a person, not simply those who are incarcerated, but those whose daily work transpires there.

It would have been a mistake to make the poems in Cardboard Piano autobiographical since the book is not about me but about the environment and how it shapes one’s perception. As a poet, I take what I know: see, hear, taste, touch and smell, as well as what I think, imagine, dream—and put that all together as narrative, as song, as image.

The remains of the emperor, inside the sarcophagus, are protected by six concentric coffins, built from different materials, including mahogany, ebony, and oak, all one inside the other.

Any environment in which one dwells—dwell is an important word—is layered, one thing nested, if you will, inside another. Writing good poetry yields layer after layer of meaning, as did the writer’s experience when creating.

I have several sets of nested items—matching bowls of different sizes, paper origami boxes, matryoshka. And I have my experiences, especially the years nested beyond four sets of barred gates. What might each human being reveal when taking apart and putting back together the nested experiences of a life?

About Rina Terry:
After leaving a position as Assistant to the Dean of General Studies at a New Jersey state college, Rina Terry attended seminary and became an ordained United Methodist Minister. She has served as pastor of several New Jersey churches and spent many years as Supervisor of Religious Services at a state prison. She holds an MA in English: Creative Writing from Temple University and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. She has published poetry, short fiction, book reviews, academic articles and frequently writes columns on jazz and literature. She contributed three poems to POEMS FOR THE WRITING and the “Spirit of Names” prompt (in PFTW) was influenced by her work.

Hear “Eleven Times A Loser, he said” from Cardboard Piano, here: