CARDBOARD PIANO by Rina Terry reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat • Cleaver Magazine
CARDBOARD PIANO by Rina Terry Texture Press, 102 pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat We tend to equate the word “prison” with concrete, metal and despair, ostensibly as means of change or as a tool of rehabilitation. In her new collection, Cardboard Piano, Rina Terry reveals multi-layered evidence of the transformative power of art versus stone. Anyone who is familiar with Stephen King’s prison stories, The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (or at least with the movie adaptations thereof) expects to question the prison system and to explore the humanity of both the inmates and the guards. Terry’s words push the reader to consider the realities of an in-person search for and confrontation of that humanity, in all its potential glory and obloquy. The opening salvo, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Inmates” offers a kaleidoscope through which we can feel the entire collection. Terry challenges our accepted notion of rehabilitative space as cyclical: “There is only one/direction. Single file/through metal detector.” Parole notwithstanding, the suggestion is that for most who enter, there is no hope, and what’s more, the system-keepers believe that as well. After all, “an inmate/is and inmate/is an inmate.” The guards do not see what Terry sees, the one man who holds on to his sense of self enough to iron his uniform, or the baptism trough as cleansing agent.