Yes I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a review or a blog post for that matter but I’M BACK WITH ANOTHER REVIEW! This time it’s Rudy Francisco’s “Helium.”
I decided to review “Helium” as his use of repetition specifically anaphora, first person and personal stories combined with factual evidence in his work is both confronting, heart-warming and enchanting.
I have selected 6 poems (which are in no particular order) and provided my own interpretation/analysis for each of them.
Pretty self-explanatory. Simply put, Francisco outlines that noise does not always equate to being “seen” as “silence” has its own unique “rumble.”
There’s a reason why so many people resonate with this one and why this poem made my 10 Sensational Slam Poetry Performances post.
Francisco begins by confronting the reader with raw recounts of personal upheaval experienced by himself and others, juxtaposing these situations with the pragmatic responses of those who experienced them. By doing this, he positions us to reflect on our “bad days” with more optimism. He emphasises through his use of repetition of “tell me” and alliteration of “stole the keys to your smile” that despite the unpleasantness of early rises and daily routine, it’s a blessing and shouldn’t be complained about as it is “so small it can fit on the tips of our tongues.”
“Tragedy and silence often have the exact same address.”
This line stood out for me as Francisco describes that whilst difficult situations can be dealt with pragmatically, they will always be accompanied by tragedy and silence. Here, he personifies these two words highlighting their simultaneous nature.
Francisco ends this piece on a positive note through his use of a simile and alliteration describing that “life is a gym membership with a really complicated cancellation policy.” He demonstrates that although some days are awful and unforgiving, one must continue persevering. This is further reinforced through his use of second person as “you are still alive” and thus must “act like it.”
For those in the back and the front who don’t believe in climate change, this one’s for you.
Francisco uses a metaphor to describe the limitless nature of water during his youth as “it seemed endless.” This is further reinforced through personification as regardless of “where [they] were”, water “would always come running.” He contrasts the idea of the abundant nature of water with his now shock of its scarcity, through reflecting upon a childhood memory as he had read about “dragons and droughts” but never imagined he would “have to deal with them.” This shock is emphasised through alliteration of the hard ‘d’ constant.
Francisco confronts us with the uncertainty he now feels about the limitless nature of water by personifying the Earth as he wonders “how long it will take the planet to tell us we can’t live here.” He reinforces this idea by juxtaposing the simple pleasures of water and how it ran “through his figures” with the doubt he now harbours as he is unsure whether his “grandkids” will ever “hear [water] splash.”
4. When People Ask How I’m Doing
For those of us who say ‘we’re alright’ and continue through each and every single day just to avoid flooding our emotions onto someone else.
Francisco explores how debilitating his depression can be at times by personifying it as an “angry… jealous God.” He highlights its power through figurative language as it “wrings [his] joy like a dishrag and makes juice of [his] smile.”
However, he refuses to “ruin someone’s day with his tragic honesty” and uses a simile to explain that he combats his depression by treating his face “like a pumpkin.” He “carves it into something acceptable” and musters up an “I’m doing alright.”
5. Rifle II
This poem seamlessly connects guns and toxic masculinity to showcase the beauty that will arise if they are eradicated. Francisco explores the different uses of a gun, highlighting the similar effect they have on people by juxtaposing the ways in which they create these effects as a gun can be used to “take peoples lives” or repurposed into “musical instruments…that puts life back into people’s bodies.”
The second half of this poem deals with how violence equating to masculinity has been ingrained into young boys through his use of of a metaphor as his “bloody knuckles” are his “first piece of artwork…hung on the fridge.” Francisco expresses the confusion he feels for being awarded for his violence through an analogy as he knows he is “passing” but has “no idea what class.” He further reiterates his confusion as men “don’t even know” what the imperative “man up” really means. Francisco realises that violence and masculinity are not connected through a comparison of the heart and the fist as they are both the “same size”, but have “different functions.” He concludes this piece with another powerful comparison explaining how he has learned that the “difference between a garden and a graveyard” is only what is “put in the ground.” Here, he reinforces that destruction can be reversed.
“Museum” explains how vulnerability is unavoidable when being a writer especially a poet and that a spoken-word poet. Francisco emphasises using a metaphor, the limbo a writer dwells in when sharing their work as “patrons” are asked “not touch” but “only half of them respect the signs.” However, he ends this poem on a positive note, explaining that poets and their work stand as a lyrical refuge where one can “walk through” and “leave when they are ready.”
If you liked this review or have any feedback, please let me know!
Also, if you’re interested in purchasing Helium, you can do here.