Michael Salcman


5501 St. Albans Way
Baltimore, MD 21212

Author's Bio

I was born in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia in 1946 and came to the United States in 1949. The son of Holocaust survivors, I contracted polio in one of New York City’s last major outbreaks. I began writing poetry while a student at Midwood High School. At 16, I attended the Combined Program in Liberal Arts and Medical Education at Boston University and received both the B.A. and M.D. in 1969, graduating first in my class at age 22. After a surgical internship, I trained in neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health and did a residency in neurological surgery at Columbia University. I began my academic career at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1976 and in 1984 was appointed the youngest chairman of neurosurgery in the United States. Pulitzer Prize-winner Jon Franklin and Alan Doelp profiled my early medical career in their book, Not Quite A Miracle (Doubleday, 1983). In the laboratory, I studied the effects of microwave-induced hyperthermia on the brain and on model brain tumors; the physiology and manipulation of the blood-brain barrier with regard to drug entry; and invented chronic single-cell recording techniques for use in behaving animals and in visual physiology. My clinical research focused on diseases of the brain. I pioneered the use of image-guided stereotactic surgery for the implantation of microwave antennas and radiation sources in combination with experimental chemotherapy for the treatment of malignant brain tumors. Similarly, I was one of the first to use the operating microscope and surgical laser for repeat operations for a variety of disorders. I was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Columbia's Neurological Institute in 1985 and of Boston University's School of Medicine in 2001. In 1991 I was elected President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. I am the author of almost 200 medical and scientific papers and the author or editor of six textbooks, most recently the two-volume 2nd edition of Kempe's Operative Neurosurgery (Springer-Verlag, 2004). My medical and scientific books have been translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese and Chinese.

In the art world, I've served as President of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. My art reviews and essays on the relationship between the arts and sciences & the visual arts and the brain have appeared in J.A.M.A., Urbanite, Neurosurgery, Creative Non-Fiction, World Neurosurgery, Little Patuxent Review, and on-line at sites such as www.PEEKreview.net and www.artbrain.org. Since 2001 I've taught an annual course on the History of Contemporary Art at such venues as the Art Seminars Group, The Contemporary Museum and Towson University. I do studio visits, perform artist crits for students and have taught seminars on the brain’s visual system and art at Cooper Union in New York and at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Presently, I am a Special Lecturer in the Osher Institute at Towson University.

I've been writing poetry for almost fifty years and spent ten years in the Summer Writers Seminar program at Sarah Lawrence College. My earliest poems, some of which appeared in Bitterroot, date from 1963 through 1977. After a ten-year hiatus, I began to write again. The new poems have been widely published in such journals as Arts & Letters, Alaska Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, The Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, Pangyrus, Poet Lore, Poetry East, Raritan, River Styx, & Solstice. I am the author of four chapbooks: Plow Into Winter (Pudding House, 2003), The Color That Advances (Camber Press, 2003), A Season Like This (Finishing Line Press, 2004) and Stones In Our Pockets (Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, 2007). My poems have received six Pushcart Prize nominations and one Best of the Web nomination. My poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, have been heard in an award-winning feature-length documentary on the brain and creativity, Euphoria (2008), on NPR's "All Things Considered" and on WYPR's "The Signal". I've given poetry seminars at Catonsville High School, The Maryland Institute College of Art and Towson University. I've given invited readings at the Library of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, the Pratt Library in Baltimore, the Academy of Medicine in Atlanta, the Writers Center in Bethesda, the Cornelia Street Cafe, the Bowery Poetry Club, the Century Association, and Columbia University in New York, and Newcastle University in the U.K. Poems have been commissioned by the Jackson Pollock Symposium at Williams College and the Baltimore Museum of Art, and set to music by Lorraine Whittlesey in Baltimore and Richard Wilson in New York. I served on the Advisory Committee of the Center for the Book of the Maryland Humanities Council and chaired the board of CityLit and its Festival. My poetry books include The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises Press, Washington,2007), nominated for The Poet’s Prize and a Finalist for The Towson Prize in Literature; The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011); Poetry in Medicine, a popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness and healing (Persea Books, 2015); A Prague Spring, Before & After (Evening Street Press, 2016), winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize; and Shades & Graces, inaugural winner of the Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020).

My wife Ilene and I live in Baltimore with a very demanding cat and a contemporary art collection; we have two children who are presently out of the house and three grandchildren.

Publications & Prizes

Poetry Calendar Anthology of Classical & Contemporary Poetry (Alhambra Publishing, 2008)
Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry (Monitor Book Company, 1980)
A Prague Spring, Before & After (Evening Street Press, 2016)
Poetry in Medicine, An Anthology of Poems About Doctors, Patients, Illness and Healing (Persea Books, 2015)
The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises Press, 2011)
Stones In Our Pockets (Parallel Press, 2007)
The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises Press, 2007)
Journals: ,
Barrow Street
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Hudson Review
, ,
New York Quarterly
Notre Dame Review
Ontario Review
, , ,
, ,
The Hopkins Review
Prizes won: 

Distinguished Alumnus, Columbia University's Neurological Institute (1985); Distinguished Alumnus, Boston University School of Medicine (2001); President, Congress of Neurological Surgeons (2001); nominee for The Poet's Prize (2009); Finalist for The Towson University Prize in Literature (2009); nominee for Poet Laureate of Maryland (2009). Winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press. Inaugural winner of the Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize from Spuyten Duyvil Press (2020).

Personal Favorites

Favorite authors: 
Donne, Shakespeare, Blake, Dickinson, Yeats, Eliot, Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Wilbur and Amichai in poetry; Poe, Doyle, Mark Twain, Proust, Saul Bellow, P.D. James and John Banville in prose.
What I'm reading now: 
Stepping Stones by Seamus Heaney & Dennis O'Driscoll, The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell, The Shadow of Sirius by WS Merwin, Poems 1959-2009 by Frederick Seidel, Collected Poems by CP Cavafy (trans. Mendelsohn)

More Information

Gives readings: 
Travels for readings: 
Prefers to work with: 
Born in: 
Czech Republic
Raised in: 
Brooklyn, NY
New York
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Last update: Jul 06, 2020