HUM smaller for web

Paperback Price: 15.95
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938584-02-2


Selected Poem
Press Kit

On Metal



Hmmmmm, drags at the back of a throat
and becomes mmmhmm, when three men huddle
around a car, admitting some smaller defeat,
while not quite admitting the emergence of digital

parts means this won't be solved by ratchet alone.
No one is happy to learn what an afternoon of chafted
knuckles, metal on skin, no longer solves. What can't

be pulled from the steel tangle under a hood.
It's as though they found the wrench that could set
free a bike from its training wheels only to discover
their daughter has had a driver's license for years.

I clap the man at the center of this trio on his shoulder,
not quite hard enough to shake loose a cigarette
dangling almost acrobatically from his lips and say,

I'll just take it in to a dealership and be done. I say it as if this
is not a huddle—like I'm not a team manager plucking
the ball from my pitcher's glove early in a game
that falls near the wane of an otherwise solid career.

Detroit's building'em like robots now, he concedes, slams
the hood and rattles the chassis. He's probably right,
considering the clank of metal closing on metal,

but I still can't help thinking of how much the frame
is like my frame. The mystery of my Chrysler's right side
not responding—silent speaker, head lamp dead, window
sealed shut, frozen power door lock—is no more.

mystifying than my left ear's limited frequency range
or the left eye I'm now told is blind by a doctor
who huddles over me to assess some unknown damage.

Damage that is ongoing. A diminishment I'll live with.
I don't get cars, but I get this: how difficult it is to get
a wreck off cinder blocks and why my dad once fiddled
daily with a dead Camero, refusing to believe its silence.

Hum


2014 Notable Book Award from the American Library Association
2013 Silver IndieFab Award Winner
2013 NAACP Image Award Nominee
2013 ForeWord Book of the Year Award Finalist
2013 The Boston Globe’s Best Books of 2013 List
2012 Beatrice Hawley Award

“The Detroit of Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is littered with broken glass, shattered vials, and discarded syringes. Noting the empty shells of grand colonials lining the streets and battered cars sitting on cinder blocks, May argues against romanticizing urban decay.”
Boston Review

“When it comes to technology, [Jamaal May] is no alarmist. It’s the friction between machines and humans (and humans with each other) that fuels these incisive, original poems.”
Gwarlingo

“Like blighted blocks reclaimed for urban farming, [Jamaal May] has a knack for turning the utterly mundane into lyric beauty.”
On the Seawall

“. . .[Jamaal] May’s work is further proof of the nonsensical distinction between academic and performance poetry. May’s command of language, his deliberateness, and his facility with form are impossible to ignore. . . . Language is a tool that May is using, not to make ornaments, but to externalize his reality, to give himself to the reader.”
Muzzle Magazine

“What is truly remarkable in these poems [in Hum] is that every object does so much work; there are no spare parts, no incidental details. . . . [Jamaal] May’s poems are littered with what would be, in another poet’s vision, detritus, the remains of things that used to hum with life.”
The Critical Flame

Hum is a bittersweet love song to Detroit. . . . The melancholic hum of [Jamaal] May’s tone lends gravity and heart to this debut collection, which might have otherwise been consumed by its conceits. May’s work is skillful and nuanced in its surprising approach to the nature (and nurture) of identity.”
The Los Angeles Review of Books

Hum will make you feel as if you are inside of a machine, as if you are a machine, as if you are making a machine, as if you cannot escape a machine that makes a war of the world every day.”
American Mircroreviews and Interviews

“[Hum] delves deeply, employs clever wordplay, and digs into the resonant hollow of empty space—a play on white noise that gets to the center of a universal rhythm. . .”
Booklist

“Linguistically acrobatic [and] beautifully crafted. . . [Jamaal May’s] poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel.”
Publishers Weekly

“Jamaal May is one of the finest poets in his generation. This debut collection is one that makes a mark, that crackles with energy and skill. I know I am excited to sit down with it. Strongly recommended.”
—C. Dale Young

“Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is concerned with what’s beneath the surfaces of things—the unseen that eats away at us or does the work of sustaining us. Reading these poems, I was reminded of Ellison’s ‘lower frequencies,’ a voice speaking for us all. May has a fine ear, acutely attuned to the sonic textures of everyday experience. And Hum—a meditation on the machinery of living, an extended ode to sound and silence—is a compelling debut.”
—Natasha Trethewey

“The elegant and laconic intelligence in these poems, their skepticism and bent humor and deliberately anti-Romantic stance toward experience are completely refreshing. After so much contemporary writing that seems all flash, no mind and no heart, these poems show how close observation of the world and a gift for plain-spoken, but eloquent speech, can give to poetry both dignity and largeness of purpose, and do it in an idiom that is pitch perfect to emotional nuance and fine intellectual distinctions. Hard-headed and tough-minded, Hum is the epitome of what Frost meant by ‘a fresh look and a fresh listen.'”
—Tom Sleigh

“In his percussive debut collection Hum, Jamaal May offers a salve for our phobias and restores the sublime to the urban landscape. Whether you need a friend to confide in, a healer to go to, or a tour guide to take you there, look no further. That low hum you hear are these poems, emanating both wisdom and swagger.”
—A. Van Jordan

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