From  reading A Time to Whisper, we quickly learn that Jay Liveson was a family man—a husband and father. Furthermore, he thought a lot about Judaism, and questioned the injustice of life and death. We know that, as a doctor, he had to struggle with the inevitability of death. He saw his fair share of death in the line of duty, but his poems reveal that he never lost his compassion or his sense of outrage and tragedy.

Although the book takes a serious look at life and our world, it has its humorous moments too, ranging from droll to hilarious. Sex is a recurring theme in the book, as it is in life. Love is an even more important recurring theme in A Time to Whisper, and the love ranges from family love—for his parents and siblings, his wife and his children, his dog—to love for his friends to love for his suffering patients. Many of these poems could be called “medical” poems because they are specific and technical and clinical; but the scientific detail does not mute—in fact it underscores—the emotion of the moment.

Liveson’s poems are formal without being overly structured, and he pushes the boundaries of form, throwing in near-rhymes and jarred meter. He also works well with free verse—merging freedom with structure. He has a good sense of selectivity and attention for details.
More than anything, A Time to Whisper is a book about compassion. What could be more fitting for a book written by a doctor and a poet—occupations that in turn provide intimacy with people and a wide vantage point from which to view and reflect upon our experience.
Jay Liveson was a neurologist specializing in clinical neurophysiology. He headed the EMG laboratory at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. The author of several textbooks in his field, Liveson was awarded the first visiting professorship in Neurology at Tel Aviv University, where he taught following the Gulf War. This is his fourth book of poems; his poems, in both English and Hebrew, have also appeared in many poetry and medical journals. Liveson was called upon to review poetry books for the Journal of the American Medical Association. He lived in New York City with his wife, Jane, and children, Alana and Jared.

A Time to Whisper
by Jay Liveson
ISBN 1-56474-383-7
80 pages, paperback, $12.00

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