Pentimento by Kathleen Hellen



“The economy of her words, the strange pigment in images, the unanticipated ways in which her lines unfold and break off; these are few of the many reasons I was compelled to publish Kathleen’s poem. On first read, it was evident that this poem was of another planet, another solar system entirely. But it’s what kept me returning that made me truly fall in love: “I see / inside crying the signs beyond shadows I seem. What looks to be / the reason is the trees are signs, confounding.” This poem is the picture of innovation in writing, and for that I love it, as you should, too.”

“How I Came to Some Advantage”

Read the poem at:

–Dillon J. Welch, Swarm’s Poetry Editor

Rating: ***** [5 of 5 Stars!]


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.

–Dick Allen, Connecticut State Poet Laureate (2010-2015), Author of This Shadowy Place, Ode to the Cold War: New and Selected Poems, among other books

Rating: *** [3 of 5 Stars!]





by Kathleen Hellen

$12, paper


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