Published in 2017, Helium is Rudy Francisco’s debut poetry collection. His poems are a medley of powerful, personal, political, and relatable. The book is broken into four parts, untitled, but marked by Roman numerals. Without giving away too much, here are the major themes I took away from each section:
A chapter-by-chapter breakdown of Helium by Rudy Francisco.
The poems in Part I keep the speaker at a distance from his surroundings. Francisco covers new love, yearning, fear, and the life events that make him who he is. He puts into words some of the most complex and painful parts of feeling human. For example, in Ouch, he writes:
“Youth promises us immortality,
but doesn’t have the means to
uphold its end of the bargain” (8).
In Correctly, he bravely breaks tradition by writing in five sentences set into a solid paragraph (17). The words tumble over each other in a way that surges in intensity much like a relationship in real-time.
In Part II, Francisco deals with the aftermath of disillusionment, loss, and even a downfall. This section contains one of his most well-known poems, Scars (35). Spoken in 10+ sections (you’ll see what I mean) he builds in intensity that translates his boiling resentment to text.
In Part III, Francisco confronts identity, personhood, politics, culture, and humanity overall. He reminds readers that our differences are often exactly what we have in common. He reminds us that the future generations must live with what we leave behind. He reminds us to have mercy on each other.
In Part IV, he finds forgiveness. He finds strength in accepting impermanence. He leaves readers with a sense of hope and perhaps perspective.
Of course, performance is a huge aspect of Francisco’s poetry. Although the book is a great read, his intensity and passion come through strongest in live performance. I strongly recommend watching his performance to get an idea of his voice before or after reading the book. Either way, you won’t be let down.