Human Voices Wake Us

Winakur, Jerald

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Feb-06-2018


The 55 poems in Human Voices Wake Us fall primarily into 3 categories: biographical poems, poems about the natural world, and poems about the worldly travels and travails of a man learning and practicing medicine. As I began to read this book, I started checking off all the poems that I thought might merit comment, but stopped early on since almost all called to me--each in their own voice. Thankfully—and skillfully--the poems were often placed in ways that, although drawing from the different aspects of the author’s life, they complemented each other. For example, “The Tyranny of Aging,” a poem about caring for a half paralyzed 95 year old whose last living child has died, is followed by “Redbud,” where the speaker of the poem walks “the ravines, the treed/windbreaks, the creek bottom/all the wooded places//searching for redbuds” (p.49). Another example is the poem “Shock and Awe in Comfort, Texas,” where a solitary walker confronts dive-bombing dragonflies and birds of prey doing what they need to do to stay alive followed by “What I Remember in Embryology,” a poem about being created and born: “Tethered/we are all waiting/fetuses suckling/our way//to heart and hair/teeth and bone/reaching grasping/limb buds into fingers” (p.25).  Winakur came to poetry after realizing that "coming and going in the rooms on daily rounds was not enough to sustain a life"(xiv). What the reader experiences in this book is Winakur’s inspired attempt of seeking—and then delivering through poetry-- more. 


What joy I experienced-- as co-founding editor of the Literature and Medicine series-- to discover that this volume of poetry had become part of the series. Kudos to KSU press for continuing to publish leading physician and nurse poets. The poetry in this book is augmented by a wonderful Forward to Alan Shapiro and a very moving Introduction (more a cri de coeur) by Winakur. I was impressed as well that Winakur, in the Acknowledgment section, thanks his poet friend/teacher Maxine Kumin, and poet teachers Edward Hirsh and Phil Levine. Winakur deserves to be read by a wide audience.


Kent State University Press

Place Published

Kent, Ohio



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