A Mysterious Humming Noise is a collection of poetry as charmingly offbeat as its title. UBC alumnus Howard White writes clearly, with a wry wit. He shares vignettes of the Pacific coast, his changing perspectives with age, and starkly real glimpses into his family life. White’s voice links the book’s five sections, each focusing on a different facet of his life. Ultimately his down to earth and playful voice is the strength of the book. That sense of humour saves the day whenever the book lingers too long on an extended metaphor or goes off in a wild direction.
If you have to oversimplify A Mysterious Humming Noise into one idea, it would be seeing things change. Seeing the little ways technology impacts our lives, seeing your childhood through an older lens and seeing your family grow older. It is heartbreaking to hear how frank White is about his father’s ageing and, eventually, his death. There are plenty of self referential poems about writing and White’s career. White scrounges up humour out of boring everyday things.
It is easy to read one of White’s clever bite-sized poems, and then another and now you’ve gone through 30 pages. Those poems could be about his errands or bulldozer driving but as a collection, it defines a character. The conversational tone also works to build a real feeling person. Considering the breadth of topics, it is hard not to find something to relate to or be tickled by. A Mysterious Humming Noise can take you somewhere, make you think or bring you back to being a kid and you’ll likely be grinning the whole time.