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4.36  ·  Rating details ·  639 ratings  ·  62 reviews
In May’s debut collection, poems buzz and purr like a well-oiled chassis. Grit, trial, and song thrum through tight syntax and deft prosody. From the resilient pulse of an abandoned machine to the sinuous lament of origami animals, here is the ever-changing hum that vibrates through us all, connecting one mind to the next.
Paperback, 80 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Alice James Books (first published November 12th 2013)
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Average rating 4.36  · 
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Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
I loved this.
It was so raw and emotional and everything I wanted in a poetry book.

I've never been the biggest poetry fan. A lot of times it takes someone sort of walking me through each reference, the extremely metaphorical writing, the significance of the form and structure of the poems, all of those things.
In the end, it's just never been ~my thing~.

However, I do love a lot of spoken word poetry.
And I was able to read this more like spoken word. And it deals with racism, abuse, loss, depr
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
May’s poetry explores Detroit’s post-industrial landscape with many of the poems focusing on the relationships between humans and machines. Humans hum. Machines hum. Electricity hums.

Glass above my bed trembles
at the touch of bass pouring thunder-thick
out of twelve-inch speakers and I almost don’t mind
being jolted awake because I know this song.
From A Detroit Hum Ending with Bones

May uses sestinas (the traditional Italian form in which lines end with particular words that repeat to explore
Andrea Blythe
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I admit to being drawn to this collection because of the gorgeous cover and its steampunk robot with a birdcage head, which immediately sparked my imagination. The physical book itself is also beautiful, with a lovely typeset. A smattering of dark pages, each for a "phobia" poem (such as Athazagoraphobia: Fear of Being Ignored"), appear throughout the book, starting out black at first then lightening toward softer grays. It's an interesting way to highlight a set of associated poems and there's ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
May is a phenomenal poet. This collection breathes Detroit, cement, metal, and soul. The focus on tangible details, (like a child thinking that a discarded hypodermic needle would make a good sword for his toy), draws the reader into his world. A world of struggle and survival, but not despair. This is poetry that would appeal to men and women. Perfect for a book club or high school. Would definitely recommend. "I don't get cars, but I get this: how difficult it is to get/a wreck off cinder bloc ...more
This was one of the poetry books where each poem could be appreciated for the way in which it was written and thus enjoyed, even if it wasn't as resonant with you as a reader. It was a poetry book that read effortlessly and dragged my attention into it, the way poetry should be. It wasn't a burden to read these poems. In fact I was sucked in so deep that after some poems I went back to reread the poem since I wasn't ready to leave it.

The best, I'd have to say, were the following: "Hum of the Ma
Allie Thom
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book of poetry up on a whim while at my local library. As some other reviewers have stated the cover artwork has a steampunk theme and immediately drew me in and had me curious about what exactly the inner book held. I was hooked after only reading the first few lines of Still Life (the opening poem) and then once I got to Athazagoraphobia (Fear of Being Ignored) I was tremendously happy I chose to read this magical work of insightful art.
Dallas Swindell
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Hum brims with tight, concisely narrative poems anchored in the expanse of extended metaphors. There is a quotient of the surreal within each stanza, but the ideas driving Jamaal May’s poems don’t dwell within this magical realism, sublimely pushing and pulling the reader through a hall of mirrors. Instead, the metaphors stand firm like pillars of thought or conviction, stationed and repeating, support for the fodder of each poem’s thesis. The eponymous Hum flutters and rumbles throughout the co ...more
Mitch Loflin
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m in love with this collection. Every poem is so strong and they all connect so comfortably through this consistent vocabulary of images - of metal, and stone, and the hums and whirs of machinery - and every poem just feels like it was created so thoughtfully and lovingly and with such a command of the words and syntax that make them up. They’re just so good!!!
André Habet
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I live you is a mistake I make so often,
I wonder if it's not
what I've been really meaning to say.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I feel like I should write a review for this collection, because it was good. (I'm just really lazy…)

Whatever the case, this is really thought-provoking collection of poems. Trauma (whether it be from war, abuse, loss, etc.) is interwoven through so many of this poems and expressed in such different ways.

This is such a clichéd way to describe this collection (especially considering the fact that it reflects Detroit), but it's gritty. It has this steampunk vibe that I really dig, where you can se
Dan Ray
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books of poetry I've ever read. The amount of thought and detail May put into this is incredible. Not only are all of the poems singularly great, but they weave together in a way that makes the sum even greater than the parts.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre-poetry, 2016
I loved how these poems bear witness to a life unfamiliar to me, but in such a way that is accessible and I get it. "The God Engine" was probably my favorite.
Ray Carroll
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Such an intricate and thoughtful collection of poetry. It's been a really long time since I've read something so powerfully understated. Recommended to me by Matthew Cuban.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love the Hum poems (especially “Hum of the Machinist’s Lover” and “Hum for the Bolt”), which are like odes full of singing and buzzing we may not usually be attuned to. Throughout the book, actually, there’s this engagement with anthropomorphism that uplifts not just animals—the usual subjects we personify—but the frequencies of machines and other inanimate things that we consider lifeless (even inanimate versions of animate beings, like his paper frogs and paper tigers!), without the self-cen ...more
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really loved this collection of poems. I liked his newer collection better - but this one is excellent as well. The poet always makes me think. His poems are broken up with poems about “fears” - many phobias I didn’t know existed. He takes the word and he casts it broader than I would have seen otherwise. I hear the hum: the word that echoes throughout, in the constant sounds around us. I hear it in the whirr of the air conditioner where I type, in the buzz of the lights above me, in the rhyth ...more
Lexi Nylander
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"A melon falls from a bag, a platoon of ants pour in and out of its gash, and I wonder if it takes being broken and emptied to be filled with something new."

"Eyes flicker like flashlights are behind them because flashlights are behind them, wired to panels, triggered by my touch ... Tell me where it aches. Tell me where rust encroaches - I know what oxygen does to your surface- How could I not? I am breath and air and air."
Christina Hopp
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are so many beautiful poems in this collection. The whole book is underlined with my favorite weird comparisons and phrases - he has such a unique voice. I enjoyed taking my time and experiencing each poem, really trying to find what he's trying to say. Jamaal May is officially one of my favorite poets and I really recommend this poetry book!
Madelyn Grace
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First off -- the cover is incredible and I saw it immediately.

Hum is a wonderful collection of poetry with heart, grit and subtle rhythmic tones. I finished it in one sitting over lunch, absolutely adored it. My favorite is A Detroit Hum End with Bones.

Hum hooked me and I'll now read anything May writes!
Keith Taylor
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's probably too early to tell yet, but I'm pretty confident the poetry of Jamaal May will last. His first book remains one of the most memorable first books I can think of. It's complex without being hermetic. Here's what I wrote a while back:
John LaPine
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
very "traditional" feeling poetry from a Detroit author, with themes of race, city, noise, machines, metal, and phobias. couldn't finish it but I might revisit later when I've honed my taste for poetry.
Wesley Ballesteros
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Absolutely stunning work. Some of these poems feel deeply personal, almost too intimate to read, but that’s what makes it so remarkable. He’s speaking to real people and he’s speaking to himself, giving us a painfully beautiful collection of relatable pieces.
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book of poems because the cover art caught my eye, but I stayed for the thought provoking poems. The phobia ones were my favorites.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Luminous collection of poetry with a puff of exhaust against the wings of a migratory bird.
Matthew Smith
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These poems changed my life.
Kenya Wright
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
It was cool but very metal and nature sort of war. I'm not into that. :-/

But well-written.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: just-because, poetry, 2018
Will be dipping back into this again and again!
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Crystal clear and fluid. Real life never sounded so romantic, so wistful.
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristen Byers
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
On a bit of a poetry kick lately. I liked the phobia poems, the machine bits, and the Detroit references.
Allison Wall
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A STUNNING debut. May's collection is cohesive and sharp as a needle, shockingly connected, dazzlingly intelligent, and brutally emotional. Beautifully printed by Alice James Books. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
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Book Release for Jamaal May's "Hum" 1 6 Apr 09, 2014 10:55AM  

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“I kept fiddling with my phone through dinner
because I was fascinated
that every time I tried to type love,
I missed the o and hit i instead.
I live you is a mistake I make so often,
I wonder if it’s not
what I’ve been really meaning to say.”
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