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Books, Journals, New Media
February 9, 2000

PoetryHanging On: Poems

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 2000;283(6):808-809. doi:10.1001/jama.283.6.808-JBK0209-2-1

A good poetry collection, like a good art exhibit or concert program, surprises the eye or ear even as it provides familiar pleasures. The poetry in Jay Liveson's lively and disparate collection, Hanging On, covers a wide range of moods and themes drawn from medical life, family life, and sometimes quirky moments of private musing.

The reader who moves through its four sections in sequence begins in the darkness of loss and pain with poems that speak from bedsides and gravesides. From there we are brought into the rich world of Judaism, present and past, where characters from ancient stories appear alongside contemporary tourists and temporary residents of a crowded, noisy Jerusalem and where comic moments punctuate lamentations that evoke a history of hardships survived. The third section introduces the lighter comedy of romance in some of its more quotidian and ridiculous moments: the buffetings of married life and the wry amusements of age when laughter rewards the one who gracefully concedes to mortality. The final poems offer a more complex weave of tone and mood; they honor the past even as they recognize the inevitable irony of the backward glance.

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