Alice Persons is the editor and publisher of Moon Pie Press. Her poems have been published in various journals; eight poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac on NPR.
Gil Helmick has an intriguing new volume of poems called The Cacophony of Rapture. His love of music in general and jazz in particular is clear. These poems are meant to be read aloud and performed, though they also reward repeated reading. Helmick’s Beat poetry influence is also evident. The overall themes include close observation, a tempered pessimism about the state of the world, and the importance of human connection and conscience.
Let me say upfront that my own preference is for poetry that is not opaque, and I am not usually a fan of political poetry, though I recognize its place in the canon. The long poem called “my name is silence” that runs many pages is powerful, but its politics are probably preaching to the converted reader.
That said, what is not to like about a book of poems that shares pithy quotes by Leonard Cohen, Lorca, Mark Knopfler, David Byrne, and Carl Sagan, among other genius wordsmiths? Helmick has a masterful way with setting a scene, evoking an emotion, and slipping from reality to memory. Some of the poems would make fine songs:
I like the specificity of “attracting a new season” and “the foot bridge from a parallel universe”:
Many of the poems range widely in the world, reflecting the poet’s many travels. Most of them cannot be labeled “accessible,” but they are worth figuring out.