“Into the Mystic”: Where Poetry Meets Music, An Interview with T.R. Hummer

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In his essay “The Mechanical Muse,” T.R. Hummer writes, “[T]he poet is considered the musician of writers — which means that, however inexpressible the relation may be, the poet’s job is to reassemble what so often presents itself as a broken primal unity.” Music is an indelible through-line in Hummer’s poetry and prose, so it is no surprise that he ended up recording an actual album — under the project moniker “AmeriCamera” — with Billy Cioffi, a touring guitarist and musical director for rock legends like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Del Shannon. I spoke with Hummer on the phone about the nexus of poetry and music as well as his personal musical history and the process and impulse behind AmeriCamera. As he writes in “The Mechanical Muse”: “Music and language are as distinct, and as linked, as the lobes of the brain. Talk about it for a while, and shortly you will begin to sound mystical.”

For Hummer, it began at age nine when he had proven capable on a recorder and was allowed to pick a “real” band instrument to play: “[At nine] I have never given a moment’s thought to saxophones but I take one look at it and the other instruments vanish. I am in love. Why the saxophone? Honestly, I have no idea. Why do you love your lover? What lightning strikes you?”


MM: [Prof. Ernest Suarez] and I have been trying to write about the intersection of American music, especially rock, and poetry. Music is woven into your whole body of work: From your prose, to your essays, to your poetry. I wanted to poke at that. We could start with your essay, “The Mechanical Muse.” You write about the saxophone and how music came into your life that way. You say some very profound things not just about poetry and music, but music and yourself and music and the American South. Can we start with the saxophone and see where it takes us?


TRH: It wasn’t that I discovered the saxophone. The saxophone came and got me and took me by the throat. The original beginning to that essay concerned Nietszche, though an editor had me revise the beginning. Nietzsche was central to the whole dynamic of the essay because of the way he writes about music, particularly in “The Birth of Tragedy,” where music for him is the basis of, well, everything. I didn’t really come to Nietzsche until I was in my late 20s. When I finally really read him, I found it impossible to ignore his observations about the primal and animal power of music as opposed to everything else we artists do. [“The most important phenomenon of all ancient lyric poetry: they took for granted the union, indeed the identity of the lyricist with the musician. Compared with this, our modern lyric poetry seems like the statue of a god without a head.” — Nietzche, “The Birth of Tragedy.”] I thought also of what poet Marvin Bell said about music and poetry: “If poetry is only music, what chance does it have against the real thing?” The immediacy of instrumental music trumps the page. There’s a reason why [Walter] Pater said, “All art aspires to the condition of music,” a quote that sticks with me, because it certainly describes my own situation. I can’t speak for others—but Pater did: He said not only poetry, but all art aspires to the condition of music. I don’t recall that he actually explains why. [Laughter.] But I do think the why is what Marvin Bell means: That music has such immediacy; it transcends time in a certain way. It is time in a different sense; you can’t have music without meter and time. But music can just cancel other stuff and you are with it as soon as you hear it, if it’s the right music for the right person at the right moment. When I hear smooth jazz on an elevator, I don’t necessarily have that feeling. [Laughter.] But I do have that feeling very often when I listen to musicians who matter to me. Which is why they matter.

For me, the connection between music and poetry starts there. But there’s also the fact that music arrived as the first art form that I could, as a child, recognize as such. Music taught me to be an artist and—given the way I grew up and where I was, that cultural bubble I was in—nothing else had the power to get in there. And even music had a hard time. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi in the 50s and 60s. Despite all of the storied musical mythology about Mississippi—and I say “mythology” in the high sense: it’s all true—it was not going to penetrate the place where I was, because nobody around me cared. The music that would first reach me was being “kept out” by design. Not by any particular person. It’s not like I lived in an Anabaptist house where the patriarch said, “There will be no music! Your mama don’t allow no clarinet playing around here!” It wasn’t like that. It was more Foucaltian; it was a systemic thing.

MM: I get that. I think it’s very true of America in that era.

TRH: They were keeping everything out, or trying to. It was almost entirely because my growing up happened in the 50s and 60s, and if you were in Mississippi then, you were in a war zone, one way or the other. My people were rural white people, and we were on the wrong side. I was brought up in that ideology, and it would take a long time and the peeling away of a lot of crap to get past it. If I have. I mean, you never really get past what you started with in some ways. You can’t change what happened, but you can change your attitude toward it.

My mother always liked music. My father claimed to be tone deaf, which was not true. He just didn’t like music. He didn’t care anything about it; it didn’t mean anything to him. My mother did in fact like music. She had grown up paying attention to popular music. Of course I mean the popular music of the 20s, 30s and 40s, mostly. I think her living connection to music ended with the war. After the war, she married and moved to the farm, which in the late forties was remote in ways hard for even me to imagine. She had been somebody who went to the movies and listened to the radio and knew all of the words to all of the songs. And so I grew up hearing her sing those old songs, mostly the ones we now think of as the Caucasian chapter of American SongBook: Tin Pan Alley, Broadway standards, white big band swing. But she also grew up in south Louisiana where there was a lot of stuff on the radio that wasn’t on the radio where I was growing up. My mother actually knew some old [jump blues singer] Wynonie Harris tunes. She used to sing, “Don’t Turn Your Bloodshot Eyes on Me,” quite a weird song to sing a child, as it concerns hangovers. [Laughter.] That was on the radio where she grew up; it was in the air in south Louisiana. I don’t know if she ever heard [New Orleans pianist] Professor Longhair or any of those musicians. But she was in tune with certain strains of New Orleans music. She had a tiny collection of vinyl that was Dixieland. So the first music I really got interested in was white Dixieland players like Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. I heard her sing these songs before I heard them anywhere else.

I did eventually start listening to the radio. When and where I grew up, that meant I would hear rock and roll or country western, often on the same station, and that was fine because there was a lot of good stuff on am radio in the late 50s and into the ‘60s. I heard Elvis, but I also heard Nat “King” Cole, the Four Tops, and the Supremes, and eventually the Beatles. Notably I heard all of the Stax Records stuff. The DJs where I was were very tuned in to that. Stax was the home team. That was Holy Grail music to everyone in that part of the world, no matter what race they were. Everyone down there loved Stax’s music as much as they loved Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Charlie Pride.

The other thing I tuned in to, of course—which was what all of us provincial kids lived for in those days if we were struggling to wake up—were those big FM stations that cranked up around midnight: WWL, and WLS; stations that turned up to 50,000 watts at midnight because it was legal in the early morning. Then I could get the music that was coming out of New Orleans, and the music that was coming out of Chicago and Memphis. I did that with my little transistor radio plugged into one ear.

MM: And, so, enter the saxophone.

TRH: When the sax arrived, it gave me a crowbar that enabled me to crack open a door. Or maybe I was the door and it was the crowbar. Everything I say in the “Mechanical Muse” about the saxophone is quite true. When I went to the band hall at age nine and saw the saxophone there, I immediately fell in love with the object. Something went click: “Yes, I want that.” I had no idea what to do with it. I hadn’t listened to saxophone music. It was the thing itself. The instrument, the object, began to teach me how to be an artist. It seemed to me at 9 and 10 that when I was in its presence, I had to rise to some level that was not required of me in any other context, because nobody was making me do anything significant, at school or at home.

Music, on the other hand, was teaching me different lessons, about what life is and about what humanity is. In music, beyond a certain point either you can play or you can’t. There’s a type of meritocracy in there; it’s a hierarchy and musicians abide by that. But on the other hand, it doesn’t matter who you are; you are part of the family if you can play. And I wanted to be part of that family. I discovered early on, of course, that a lot of my best mentors and relatives in that family were going to be people of color. That’s obvious in retrospect but when it dawned on me in the 60s in deep rural Mississippi, it was revelatory.

There’s a history of the world embedded in music that is not available in language and can’t be found in books, but is presence. If you are tuning in to that music and really receiving it, you are receiving the world. That was a much better education than I was getting in school at that point. No teacher in our school ever said, or even thought, “We must not educate the children.” [Laughter.] But everything in the system was saying, “No, no, no you must not think.” Because if you think one clear thought, you’ll see through all of this bullshit and become the enemy. In the 60s that was a big deal. If you crossed over and became part of the counterculture, that was dangerous.

When I went to college, first I found the place on campus where the musicians hung out, then I became part of that bigger family. In 1968 things were changing. In 1965, say, there were about four hippies in Mississippi. [Laughter.] By 1969 there were thousands. It really was a phenomenon. Most of the South was at the tail end of the counterculture’s arrival, but nevertheless we got there.

Where I was, poetry was not really much a part of that evolution. I fiddled around with poetry in high school but I was by no means serious about it. In college I became serious, because I read some serious poems, finally.

MM: Can you talk about your experience with literature and poetry before that?

TRH: One day my eleventh grade teacher, one of the very few good teachers I had in those days, handed me a little skinny book. He said, “Hummer, I don’t really know if you’ll get this, but you can just take it. I bought this and I don’t really understand it.” Years later I realized he was being tactical. It was a book of e.e. cummings poems. I hadn’t heard of him before and I thought, “Whoa, this is not Longfellow.” Another thing that same teacher did for me: He came in to American Lit one day and said to the class, “Listen, I want you to read something.” He had a little pile of mimeographed pamphlets, three pages stapled together. He said, “I want you to take this home and read it, but you mustn’t tell anyone that I gave you this and you must bring it back tomorrow and hand it in again. Unless you bring it back to me, you’ll get an F in the class, because this has to be a secret. I’ll get fired if somebody finds out I gave you this.” This made everybody really want to read it. [Laughter.] Later I realized what a great pedagogical technique that was. I read that document very carefully several times. It was Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” which, at that point, I would never have read otherwise. It’s very short, and very clear and yet mysterious, especially if you’re seventeen and have never heard of existentialism. He didn’t want anyone to know he’d given it to us for a couple of reasons, partly because it’s about suicide, and even more because a version of the Lord’s Prayer appears in the story: “Our nada who art in nada, etc.” If the local Christians knew we’d read that, the teacher would have been burned at the stake.

This experience was useful because, a) I read the Hemingway story, which stuck with me, and b) I got the idea that there was something potent, even dangerous, in literature that sometimes had to be kept secret. In fact, at that point, I started reading things that I felt were “my secret,” even though they weren’t, but I needed to think so. I read science fiction, as a kind of escape from the place I was in; but I also read a good deal of Shakespeare then, on my own, because—surprise!—I found something very evocative in the plays. Literature became my secret, the thing that I did that nobody else in my vicinity was doing. And it seemed best that they not know.

This dovetails with the music that I was trying to make, something that often I shared only with musicians I knew. We were discovering it piecemeal, on our own. There was no internet, of course, but there was not much live music around us either. We had to get it out of the air, literally, from the radio.

I did subscribe to Downbeat Magazine. I found a copy in the bookstore up the road in Columbus, Mississippi. When I saw Stan Getz on the cover with a saxophone in his hands, I thought, “I’d better buy that.” As a result, I shortly bought a few records, one of which was Stan Getz’s “Sweet Rain,” an album I still love. The saxophone gave me an identity in high school, because otherwise I was completely nondescript; I wasn’t an athlete, and if you were male and not an athlete you were really nobody. Except people who were playing in rock and roll bands. We had the only rock and roll band in town for quite awhile; truly, a garage band. To my peers in that town, I was a musician.

MM: So how did you come to pursue writing poetry?

TRH: Poetry I arrived at kind of by accident. I took a creative writing class with a man named Walter Boswell; this was Mississippi State in Starkville in 1968. Boswell was a sort of beatnik. And he played sax! Or so he said—I never actually heard him. In that place and that time, his form of “hipness” was from another universe to me. I knew about beatniks because Maynard G. Krebs from the “Dobie Gillis Show” made a big impression on me at a certain age. Pathetic as it is, it was from the lips of Maynard G. Krebs that I first heard the names Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker. Maynard G. Krebs used to go around writing “Bird Lives!” on the walls of the high school. I thought, what’s that all about? Television brought things into the house that wouldn’t have been brought into the house. I remember an old episode of “Route 66” that had a jazz band in it, featuring Coleman Hawkins. I was 13 when I saw that. I had absolutely no idea who Coleman Hawkins was; I only put the pieces together years later. But I never forgot seeing him play.

Later I took a second creative writing class with another teacher, a poet younger than Walter Boswell, with an MFA from Arkansas. Strange to say, he also was a sax player. He took more interest in my writing that Boswell had, and when he realized I was on the fence about whether to make poetry or music my main focus, he said, “Look, who would you rather be: Yeats or King Curtis?” That question resonated for me—though if he had said “Yeats or Coltrane” and I had known anything about Coltrane, it would have been a different resonance. But in fact, as soon as he put the matter that way, things shifted.

MM: Your experience speaks to me, too. I’m somewhat younger, but it was a similar situation growing up in Minneapolis. Like you say, through tv, radio, or different mediums, you get a glimpse of what’s there, but nobody can tell you how to find it, and nobody can explain what it is. So you had a mission for yourself, but part of the pleasure of it is that it’s a kind of “secret knowledge” and it’s hard to get.

TRH: It becomes a quest. You’re trying to find this thing and you may not even know what it is, or where to look for it. In college, I knew people who were collectors of vintage blues albums; they would make pilgrimages to Chicago to some junk shop to dig through boxes of old records, old 78 sides. Now you just order it on the internet, which makes finding it a lot easier. But on the other hand, there’s a pleasure in a mystery that needs to be solved and it takes real effort to solve it. I miss that.

MM: Me, too. I often ask people who are younger than me if they’ve had any experiences like that. Part of the sad thing is that there’s such a wealth of information available, in a way it’s kind of a turnoff: “I could just figure that out any time so why bother?”

TRH: It can also be overwhelming because it’s there all at once. Once you tap into it, all of a sudden you have to spend four days watching YouTube clips. The first time I tuned in to YouTube, I was in a Django Reinhardt period. I thought, let me just search for Django Reinhardt and see what comes up. There was a film clip of him, which I had no idea existed. Now I know that there is a certain amount of footage of Django Reinhardt playing, but at that time I had no clue. It was a real revelation. Every bloody thing is on YouTube.

MM: I wanted to ask you about the collaboration with Billy Cioffi in AmeriCamera. You started off as an aspiring musician and became a poet. What was the process like collaborating on “actual” music?

TRH: Of course before I met Billy Cioffi I had worked with a lot of musicians, but I had tended to separate my musician self from my poetry self (and especially, I suppose, from my university self). Billy and I are the same age, both in our late 50s when we met; he was the perfect person for me to work with, kind of my opposite number professionally. We tracked the same way through high school, but Billy was in a band called the Gray Things that made a record in ’66 [Eds.: “Charity,” 1966, Laurie Records]. Billy grew up in Albany, NY playing places like Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls. The record became a regional hit and that’s what got Billy plucked out of there by people from Los Angele, who said, “We want you, not the band.” I don’t know if you’ve seen photographs of Billy when he was young but, boy, he had the look! [Laughter.] That’s also something I never had. [Laughter.] Billy’s path, his destiny, took a right turn where mine took a left. I finished high school and went to college, while Billy didn’t. His family really wanted him to. They are a very solid white collar family in Albany, and you went to college, dammit. But off he went to Los Angeles instead. I would have killed to have been him at that point. But in fact, the path that I took was the right one for me.

I met Billy because my now ex-wife was teaching a creative nonfiction class at Arizona State. She came home one day and said, “There’s this guy in my class that you really need to meet. He’s about your age and he’s got really interesting stories about music and musicians. He’s writing an essay about being on tour with Chuck Berry!” I invited him to come see me; he showed up at my office one day; we started talking and we haven’t stopped yet. Billy had left LA by then, obviously; he had a terrific career in music there, but strange to say he had always wanted to be an English major; now he was one. All those years he spent on the road with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and so on, the musicians had various ways of spending their time on the road, but he always took books. He’d read an enormous amount.

That conversation in my office morphed into the collaboration. We wrote songs by talking. He’d say, “I’m usually the lyricist when I write songs, but this time I want you to be the lyricist. Go bring me something.” The lyrics would often come out of something we’d talked about; if not, we’d talk about the lyrics. Then we’d begin to work on the song. He’d either begin to put music to it right away, but usually he’d say, “No, we need to shape it.” He has a very strong sense of song craft, which I did not have. I mean, I knew how songs are shaped, but not the way you know if you’ve been in the songwriting sweatshops of Los Angeles. He did that for a long time and wrote with a lot of people. So he brought a level of knowledge about that kind of writing to the process. I brought what I brought, which was poetry. I insisted the songs be image-based, so that’s how we got around to the idea of “AmeriCamera.” That wasn’t necessarily how Billy looked at songs. Image resonated for him in songs, but he never assumed songs were based on them. We worked with that idea and enjoyed the process because it was an approach neither of us had taken before.

MM: The spark that started the flame.

TRH: What Billy had was a very diverse career in music. And I never tired of hearing him tell his stories. That collaboration is the one regret I have about not living in Phoenix anymore. It’d be possible to do what we did long distance, but we just don’t do it that way. He and I need to be in a room together.

The bass player/engineer on our sessions, a brilliant French guy much younger than us, said about the music we were doing, “This stuff is awfully verbose!” [Laughter.] We said, “Yes, it is, so shut up and pay attention!” [Laughter.]

MM: Verbose is not how AmeriCamera strikes me. But I think it’s interesting that the intent is to be consciously poetic. And I don’t think you get a lot of that, even in what has come to be called “Americana” or wherever it is that the Dylan’s of the world led us. That conscientious poeticism doesn’t seem to be there any more, even in places where it’s “allowed.”

TRH: There are a lot of poets who do music. This is a conversation that Billy and I had early on. I said “I’m not really interested in a poet-reads-with-a-band approach.” That’s fine, but that wasn’t what we wanted to do. I also wasn’t interested in, “The poet turns out to be a country-western musician because he or she can play three chords on a guitar.” [Laughter.] Billy said, “I know what you mean. What if we just made this a rock and roll album with poetry at the heart of it.” And I said, ok to rock and roll, though my particular desire was an homage to R&B, because I’m more in love with that than I am with straight-up rock and roll so-called. I love that, too, but it’s really the Stax musicians that I feel the most strongly about from that period. He said, “That’s totally fine with me, because I feel the same way.” A song like “Mississippi More or Less” came straight out of that conversation. [“The wreck of a tractor in the vacant lot/ Behind the burned out hotel/ In the parlor off the lobby there’s an angel made of smoke/ She plays that black piano so well … If someone asks you your address/ You tell ‘em, Mississippi more or less.”].

We have some country-rock on there, too, like “If Anybody Could.” We had the great country-rock drummer Mickey McGee who played with Linda Ronstadt and the Flying Burrito Brothers and so on, with us the whole way; Mickey was a fine songwriter in his own right. He died last summer of COVID-19, for me one of the great shocks of the pandemic. He’s missed.

MM: Speaking of collaboration. There’s a wonderful poet who teaches at the University of West Georgia where my wife teaches, Gregory Fraser. He’s a great poet and friend. He’s gotten interested in songwriting — we share a similar taste in music — and he has run some of his songs by me, which are top-notch. He asked, “What would you change?” I said, “I would just go back in and massage some of the internal language a bit.” Because as a singer, what I’m focused on is vowels and syllables. I gave him an example of the little changes I might make, and I think he was surprised, because he said, “Well, that really messes with what I’m trying to say.”

TRH: That’s the whole songwriting problem in a nutshell. The music, as such, and the language, as such, have to be massaged until you get them melded properly. That process often turns out to be not necessarily amenable to the sense you had in mind originally. Billy and I did a lot of that kind of kneading. But I ultimately would yield to his wisdom on this matter. His way of putting it—I think it’s the same thing you’re saying — was, “That phrase there is all well and good, but it doesn’t sing. I can’t sing it.” It’s like having the playwright in the room when the actor says, “I can’t speak those lines, because they don’t seem to be in character, or they aren’t right for me.” So the playwright revises.

When I write poetry for the page, I often come across similar issues, but with different ramifications. One phrase in the poem is perfectly fine in terms of its sense but it doesn’t make the right sound for the poem. Not being able to sing it is a different question. It’s related, but it’s not the same thing. I find that difference interesting. That’s why I was always alert to what Billy would say when he had a problem of that kind with something I wrote. That’s of the essence of the craft of songwriting. If it can’t be sung, it’s not a song; I don’t care how good it may look on paper. A lot of songs don’t look that good on paper, but they sound great when they’re sung. For a poet who writes for the page, it can be hard to wrap your head around that simple fact, but it’s a very necessary part of the process of making a song. I learned an enormous amount from Billy about that. He’s like the seasoned actor telling the playwright, “No, this really just doesn’t work. It works thematically, it works narratively, but it does not work as something an actor can do. I can’t act that.” I-can’t-sing-that is the same objection.

MM: This could bring us full circle to the Marvin Bell quote: “If poetry is nothing but music, what chance does it have against the real thing?” The idea that when the lyric comes up against the music, music tends to trump it.

TRH: Yes, I’ve tried to write about this, too, under the heading of the alas apparently old-fashioned word “prosody,” whose root means “towards song” in ancient Greek. The root of our word “prose” is also in the word “prosody.” “Pros-” means to move in a straight line; “-ode” in Greek means “song.” To move in a straight line towards song. But of course it turns out the line is not straight. [Laughter.] It refracts and you think you’re moving to one place and all of a sudden you’re in a whole different neighborhood. That’s why it’s interesting.

MM: I think we’re talking about the same concepts, but it’s hard to put words to it. It’s a tricky intersection.

TRH: What’s at the bottom of it is beyond language. I was trying to get at this in my essay about James Brown and multiphonics [“Techniques of Ecstasy: James Brown’s Multiphonic Sublime (‘Cold Sweat’)”: “…it sounds as if a dragon has knocked down the wall of the studio and is breathing fire into the microphone. That gout of fire is sung, but what note is it?”] The music that I listen to lately is not even remotely what I used to listen to. I’m listening to certain kinds of world music; in particular, throat singing. Lately, my great desire is to play the shakuhachi; the Japanese bamboo flute. I bought one recently, and that thing…. [Sighs.] I’m somebody who’s played reed instruments and wind instruments for over 60 years — including flutes of various kinds. It took me months to even make this thing speak. It’s incredibly challenging, which I love, actually. I’ve spent a little bit of time with it every day, and eventually I arrived at a point where I can play it a little. I’m sure I’ll never be able to play anything in the great tradition of shakuhachi music; I’ll only barely scratch the surface. You really need a teacher, partly for technique, but even more because the repertoire is mostly handed down orally, from teacher to student. But I love the way the instrument sounds, because you can hear the player’s body in it. This is something I think the evolution of Western instruments has done its best to cancel. The evolution of our instruments is a technological evolution toward tonal purity. With every step this technological evolution seems to take the sound farther and farther away from the body, so that you finally get to synthesizers, which can sound like anything and everything. But the player’s body is hardly in it.

The shakuhachi is comparatively naked; there is nothing to help you. It is kin to western flutes, but by comparison a recorder, say, is easy. A recorder is basically a shakuhachi with a mouthpiece, a fipple, designed to direct the breath. They both have a built-in reed that splits the player’s breath to make a tone. With the recorder you can’t miss the reed; the fipple directs the airstream. The shakuhachi doesn’t do that, so for a long time I could sit all damn day trying to get the airstream to hit the reed properly and make a sound. The point is there’s no built-in technology to assist you. The modern Western flute has keys on it, added to the instrument as it evolved over centuries. A shakuhachi has five holes and that’s it. Yet a decent shakuhachi takes somebody ten years to craft, including the selection of the bamboo and its aging. That interests me.

Our music has gotten far away from certain primal sounds, which I hear mostly in voices. You have auto-tune and a lot of other gadgets you can apply to the voice in the recording studio. But even so, it’s still a voice. When James Brown, for instance, splits a note, he knows exactly what he’s doing and the splitting is absolutely precise. It sends chills down my spine, literally, because it’s so uncanny and so fundamentally primal. But there is something fundamentally mystical in it too: two voices in one voice. That’s what I’m looking for, both in my poems and what I do with music; that kind of perfect, shocking doubleness. It’s hard to get to, because we’ve put so many obstacles between ourselves and that condition of being.

MM: And not just physical ones but cultural ones.

TRH: Mental ones. Spiritual ones.

MM: Maybe that’s where I’m heading. I’ve been listening to a lot of world music, too, mostly Caribbean basin stuff. I just find great comfort in hearing people sing in languages I can’t understand.

TRH: The sense is cancelled, so you’re just listening to the voice. They might be saying the same old crap every other singer is saying in terms of the sense. Musically, though, it’s another world. And the voice is nakedly a voice.


T.R. Hummer’s chapbook, In These States appeared from Jacar Press in 2020. Otherwise, he has published fifteen books of poetry and essays, most recently After the Afterlife (Acre Books, 2018). Former editor-in-chief of The Kenyon Review, of New England Review, and of The Georgia Review, he lives in retirement in Cold Spring, NY, and never goes to meetings.