More About the Author
T. R. Hummer was born in Macon, Mississippi in 1950; he grew up in rural Noxubee County on a farm. Because noxubee is a Choctaw word meaning "stinking waters," he spent most of his high school career playing the saxophone in various rock and roll bands and avoiding the "education" local circumstances dictated. As fate would have it, he found his way to the University of Southern Mississippi and the Center for Writers, where he studied with Gordon Weaver and D. C. Berry, receiving his B.A. in 1972 and his M.A. in 1974. He then spent three years living in Jackson, where he worked for the Mississippi Arts Commission, spied circumspectly on his neighbor Eudora Welty when she shopped for groceries at the nearby Jitney Jungle, and stood by helplessly while his first daughter, Theo, was born by caesarian section (his first book, Translation of Light--a limited edition chapbook from Cedar Creek Press--arrived in the mail on the day of her birth).
In 1977, he lit out for the territories, to study with Dave Smith at the University of Utah; there he was editor of Quarterly West in 1979. He completed his Ph.D. in 1980 and took his first academic post in the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University, where he was poetry editor of The Cimarron Review. During these years, he rediscovered the saxophone and played western swing and country rock with The Skinner Brothers Band, who after his departure did a stint as Garth Brooks' backup band. His first two full-length books of poetry, The Angelic Orders (LSU Press 1982) and The Passion of the Right-Angled Man (U. of Illinois Press 1984) were published, and in 1984 he relocated to Kenyon College; there, after a year in the Kenyon-Exeter Program in England and visiting positions at Middlebury College (where he guest edited New England Review) and the University of California at Irvine, and having again abandoned the saxophone, he became editor of The Kenyon Review. In 1987, Lower-Class Heresy was published by University of Illinois, and in 1989 he returned to Middlebury as editor of New England Review.
1990 marked the appearance, and disappearance, of The 18,000-Ton Olympic Dream, which, having been acquired and brought into print by William Morrow, went out of print almost immediately. Bemused by this, Hummer applied for, and received, a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry and relocated to the University of Oregon in 1993, where he directed the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing, completed and published Walt Whitman in Hell (LSU Press 1996) and again took up the saxophone, which now he began to study with cabalistic fascination, secure in the knowledge that he would never learn to play the thing properly.
In the fall of 1997--after a hiatus of exactly twenty years--he returned to the South, where he became Senior Poet in the M.F.A. Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, a city he found so congenial that he remarried, wrote another book of poetry (Useless Virtues, LSU Press 2001), and stood by helplessly while his second daughter, Jackson, was born by caesarian section. Up until Jackson's birth, he had played tenor and baritone saxophone in the Richmond-based jump blues band Little Ronnie and the Grand Dukes (Young and Evil, Planetary Records 2001), but he was so elated by the symmetry of events that he left the band (with regret and apologies), took yet another new position, and became editor of The Georgia Review. This necessitated moving even farther south, to the University of Georgia in Athens with his wife Stephanie, his daughter Jackson (Theo refused to come, having interests of her own to attend to), three cats, and five saxophones, none of which he will ever properly learn to play. Then, having finally seen the light, he relocated to Arizona State University, to teach, write, and play long tones at the desert moon.