Music. Music runs through all of My Father, Humming. It ties everything together.
I think of the book as one poem, which is, in itself, a piece of music.
Poets and writers deal with words. Music is what comes before words. We all listen to music of one kind of another. It connects us to something deeper in ourselves, something more basic and lasting.
Music connects us directly to the “chi”—to our spirits, our souls.
The vibration of a string—on a piano, a violin, a guitar—aligns with our heartbeat, and with the blood moving in our veins. The changed air produced by a wind instrument is the music of breath.
Music is life. We don’t have to figure out what it means. We listen to it, or make it, and we are inside of it. And in it, we connect to the universe, and to ourselves.
My Father, Humming is a piece of music about Alzheimer’s, losing a loved one, as well as love and healing.
“Poetry? My Father, Humming is poetry? The way you talked about it, it sounded interesting. But I’m not going to read it if it’s poetry. I don’t read poetry.”
Lots of people feel that way. When we were taught poetry in school, the teacher would have us all read some poem that she loved that was, like, 100 years old. It was written in some stilted language no one we knew used, with lots of words we didn’t understand. She gushed over its meaning and how beautiful it was, and we didn’t get it. Then she had us read another one, and we didn’t get that one either. And because we didn’t understand, that made us feel stupid. Why should we try something that made us feel bad?
Later, if someone had a poem that was new that they liked and they showed it to us, we didn’t get that at all. It made our head hurt to try to understand it, and still we didn’t get it.
Clearly, poetry made us feel stupid. It wasn’t for us.
Well, poetry doesn’t have to be like that. Right now, there’s poetry we all know and like. Popular music—the songs we listen to over and over—even rap—they’re poetry, too.
“No. Really? Come on.”
So are nursery rhymes. I call them “people’s poetry.”
My Father, Humming is like that. It is poetry about Alzheimer’s, and “so accessible,” as several people have said. Meaning: even if you don’t read poetry, if you can read, you can read this—and if you do read poetry, you can read this, too. There are serious verses, as well as humorous ones; all of them, though, are tributes to the deceased, and losing someone to Alzheimer’s.
There it is, dealing with things all of us have faced or will face—one Amazon customer review said, “This is a book for anyone who has lost someone.”
And doing it in a way all of us can understand.