2012 POETRY AWARD WINNER_WASHINGTON WRITERS' PUBLISHING HOUSE
“I think Lincoln would be moved by Kathleen Hellen's poem "Naming." Umberto’s Night is filled with work that could wake the dead. This collection is original and waiting for awards. I found a few of the poems leaving the page punching —swinging at my head. A knockout is a good thing. Hellen scores one with this book.”
—E. Ethelbert Miller
“These poems powerfully document the violence interwoven in our lives: a high school dropout, ‘the ledger of his grades, the last recounting,’ showing ‘only empty cells’; the domestic violence victim who stands in the courtroom knowing he’s ‘here in the bones of her throat’; the undocumented hotel maid with ‘sheets turned down at the borders.’ Speaking with a spare, fractured grace, Hellen absorbs the blows on our behalf.”
“Gutsy Kathleen Hellen patrols the streets of Baltimore like a recording angel and seductively drags us along for the ride. She’s parsed the grit of Homicide and transposed it into imagistic poetry of love, death, and consequences, uncovering a congress of monsters, addicts, perps, vics, and cons, in the process. There’s no witness protection program in this daily apocalypse. In her hands, even shoplifting and lawn mowing transform into something biblical. These words, sometimes quixotic, always kickass, reverberate through my skull like quicksilver.”
“These are rich, beautiful poems that sweep up the reader in a world of vivid imagery and musical language, where every line sings to the ear and eye. Hellen's is powerful work, a feast for the reader, who will come away filled and changed.”
—Rhett Iseman Trull
In her aptly titled Pentimento, Kathleen Hellen’s poems most characteristically float between the seen and the unseen. We are “stunned by the familiar,” by “ceaseless scavenging” (“Waiting for Tupac”), and what can also be found “in the disappearing “(“Pentimento”). These are poems of transformation, of reshaping, of the subliminal brought to the fore. The poems are written in lines painted with deft strokes—either purposely jittery with “no’s” and fragments, or written in lines that roll out as “One long country-western song, station to station / until cables disconnect” (“Variations on a Train”). Kathleen Hellen sees what’s barely seen at night in the parking lot of a Home Depot, or on a clothesline, or at a working folks’ beach, or imagined in the Bardo. To read these intensely observed and felt poems is like leaning forward in the backseat of a taxicab, listening while the driver speaks quietly from a life both as expected and unexpected as all of our lives are.
Connecticut State Poet Laureate (2010-2015)
Author of This Shadowy Place, Ode to the Cold War:
New and Selected Poems, among other books
THE GIRL WHO LOVED MOTHRA
In a masterful use of diction and image, blending ancient tradition with modern angst, Shiori’s [Kathleen’s} poems take us to unexpected places. If you are a poetry reader, take pleasure.
Author of Looking to the East with Western Eyes and Beyond the River