“We have to go back,” a dying man says, as the car pulls from the curb, “I’ve left my memories.” It is his son, the author of My Father, Humming, who later finds them, turns them in the lock of what’s forgotten to open the dimension of what he can get back: his father at the piano, “humming” as he plays Beethoven, insisting he will make millions even at 85, shouting when his son tries Bach, “That is not how/it’s supposed to be played!” Jonathan Gillman’s quiet and surprising collection has the feel of discovery and illumination. Listen! “This way’s mine,” he writes, “this long and slow—/finding my own music/in the notes/the Maestro wrote.”
Honor Moore, author of Red Shoes
My Father, Humming begins with music—the father’s, the son’s, the musicality of the poetic line—then moves to the poignant moments when a son watches the dreams of a father fade into dependency, disability. Throughout this tribute is the keen eye of an attentive son, translating his anguish, his anger, his celebrations of life into the words on the page. In the final analysis, it is music that keeps it all together, in the notes, in the life, in the way we hear the words, and finally in the way the spirit continues on.
David Watts, author of Bedside Manners
My Father, Humming is an inspiring, heartbreaking, and hopeful work—in its tone, imagery, recurring themes, and pacing—moving in the way blood moves through the body. The poems enact a fascinating tension between melody and gradual dying, and in the beautiful, almost serene, final section arrive at an awareness of what cannot be resolved but only lived as fully as possible.
William O’Daly, poet, translator, and editor