Why I Chose T. R. Hummer’s Ephemeron for the Rumpus Poetry Book Club

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Rumpus Poetry Club Board Member Brian Spears on why he chose T. R. Hummer’s Ephemeron as the November selection of The Rumpus Poetry Book Club:

I have a confession to make: I hate writing these kinds of essays. All I really want to say is “I chose this book because I think it’s awesome dipped in awesomesauce” and I don’t know where to go from there. (I’ll have this same problem next month, I can already tell you.) But that’s not enough, I know, so here’s why I think T. R. Hummer’s Ephemeron is awesome dipped in awesomesauce.

Let me start by quoting, in full, one of the poems from the middle of the book, “Melancholia for Dummies.”

The sun has exploded in a black sky, but the angel,
preoccupied by demons of his own devising, stares fixedly
Into a middle distance only angels care about. Dürer
was onto something, but meditation is overrated.
While the angel was tilting at mantras, his dog was fading,
dear faithful Cosmo, he who had followed
Through all the rings of Being and the ten thousand zones
of torment, he who never questioned
The wisdom of flying, or cursing god, or dancing
on the heads of pins–old unquestioning creature
Not nagging or asking why or where as he was dragged
by a leash of molten gold from torture to beatitude,
Garden to comet, sin to blessing to vastation–worn out
with his master’s infinite dissatisfied agitation,
He closed his eyes. And you, winged genius of despair,
you want to know why you are thus blighted with angst?
God takes his vengeance in obvious ways. Check out the doors
of your perception, asshole. Look around. Your dog is dead.

Part of my joy with this poem comes from the fact that Hummer takes on such a big subject, but what I really love is the way he closes the poem with the notion that it’s possible to be so locked in on big things that you neglect those things closest to you, and doing that can make you an asshole. It’s such a human poem, even though Hummer sets it in the vastness of the abstract universe.

Not all the poems in this book are like this one, though. Many, like “Schematic” (which we published in April 2010 as part of our National Poetry Month project), are made up of couplets which seem tangentially related at best. It’s as though the poems are constructed out of ephemera (the singular of which provides the book’s name), chunks of text that might not, on their own, build into a narrative or lyric moment, but when combined, become greater than the sum of their parts.

I’ve only scratched the surface here–I want you to discover the gems in this collection for yourself, and I’m excited about the conversations soon to follow, as well as the chat we’ll have with T. R. Hummer in early December.


Brian Spears's first collection of poetry, A Witness in Exile, is now available through Louisiana Literature Press, and at his personal website. He is the Poetry Editor for The Rumpus, and teaches poetry at Drake University. More from this author →