In which All One Hum gets its name…

Today, a story.

My favorite of all mantras is the one the breath sings all by itself: so hum. So on the inbreath, hum on the outbreath. So hum.

So hum. So hum. So hum. Song of our lives, all on its own.

Some translate so hum as I am that.

I am that I am that I am.


I originally wanted to name this blog All One Word—a little tip of the hat to how funny it is to try to spell out URLs aloud, & at the same time a phrase that represents so much of my belief system as a writer and instructor of writing… alas, someone already thought of that one. (Rrrrrg.)

I ran the idea of AllOneWordNoSpacesOrPunctuation by my bff Emily (this might be even funnier, but funnier in a bad way?) who said uh-uh, definitely no dice. (That address is still available, at least on WordPress—gee I wonder why.)

I couldn’t let go of the All One part. The plurality of the All and the finity of the One. I am moved immeasurably by singulars and plurals. Numbers, and their reach.

And then one day last week I was sitting in my sunroom meditating, and my mind looped back to so hum.

It’s not just the words I’m after—it’s the state before them, and the place they return me to. Both of which are, in my experience, pretty quiet.

So: three words, three letters each. I love short words—how essential the consonants are in such close range of their vowels.


The best thing I’ve read lately is C.D. Wright’s “In a Word, a World,” which just appeared in the first issue of Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics. (Thanks, Em, for the forward.)

In the final section of the essay, we arrive here:

The mother word, word of words, must pull everything in range to its skin if not its core. It must set one’s head awhirling. It must whelm the mouth when spoken, and clobber the senses when confronted. It must include everyone everywhere. Forever. And so, world, Middle English, from the Old English weorold, also appearing as warld, wardle, werld, werlde, worlde, worold, worolde, woruld, wurlde, that’s the word for me. Such surround-sound amplitude, such magnetic force. It cannot be got outside of. One must hew to its basic requirements or succumb to its anguish. “World. World. O world!” Made of everything and nothing.

That’s how the right words feel to me—not just like they contain, but like they also empty. And like they cannot be gotten outside of.

I am that.

So that’s the story of how All One Hum got its name, as well as a link to a great piece by C. D. Wright.

I’m off to look up some word roots in my compact OED. Kind of a typical Monday night. Right now I have three writing workshops in full swing, and what that usually ends up meaning is that I end up writing tons of wild drafts right alongside my students, in a constant slippage between feeling every word is total and feeling every one is preliminary, and (always, no matter how many years I live as a writer) like I haven’t actually written a thing yet. Not one single thing.

So hum.

Have a great week, everyone.



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