Necessary Speech

New & Selected Poems

Michael Salcman


ISBN 978-1-956005-12-7        304 pages           $25.00


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“It’s noon in beauty’s hell,” writes Michael Salcman in Necessary Speech: New & Selected Poems. Salcman’s kissing the girls, he’s ogling the paintings, he’s open to Baltimore as much as Greece. As a poet/brain surgeon for whom “sake was light anesthesia,” he’s human and humorous. A generous guide to the Judaic world, as much internal as external via the family’s ordeal during the Holocaust, his “Coyotes in Connecticut,” the mellifluous “Lech Lecha” and the ambitious eight-part “Prague Suite” masterfully convey the rigors of survival. I raise a cup of that sake to Salcman, and bid you drink.

     Terese Svoboda, Author of Theatrix


Little is lost on Michael Salcman.  Whatever he encounters seems to stick to him ready for retrieval—art, history, geography, biology, music and language.  When he comes to write, they come along and make his poetry, as well as his life, rich, demanding, and multi-dimensional. You learn from a Salcman poem how things come together or fall apart.  His selected poems highlight the best of his work, and the new poems are evidence that no artist’s work is ever completed and his or her best works may be the most recent.

     David Bergman, Emeritus professor of English, Towson University



Here it is: a treasure chest of poems, fresh as wonder, enduring as humanity In Necessary Speech: New and Selected Poems,  Salcman speaks in a voice that is eloquent, compassionate, poignant, and deeply moving. I marvel at his range, from art to travel to history, with love as the source of it all. Once a neurosurgeon, Salcman writes with a rare combination of observation and intelligent feeling in his magnificent metamorphosis from saving lives to saving our souls – and our lives.

     Grace Schulman, Frost Medalist & Author, The Marble Bed


Praise for The Clock Made of Confetti (2007)

Nominated for the Poet’s Prize


T.S. Eliot famously praised poets “who feel their thoughts as immediately as the odour of a rose” and until Michael Salcman our recent poetry has been overdue the new arrival of such a poet…This is a question-asking, passionately felt, superbly described and crafted poetry of the highest order.

     —Dick Allen


Praise for The Enemy of Good is Better (2011)


Michael Salcman’s poems are erudite but wear their erudition lightly. His range is enormous. No matter his subject, his poems are in love with life.

     —Thomas Lux


Praise for A Prague Spring, Before & After (2016)

Winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize


A Prague Spring is a near-epic book of history poems, interweaving the story of Prague with the Holocaust, family deaths and survivals, a book that stuns the reader with the enormities and sorrows of Time.

     —Dick Allen


Praise for Shades & Graces: New Poems (2020)

Inaugural winner of the

Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize


Brilliant, playful, rueful, profoundly grounded—a scholar of Erasmus and Sinatra, pinball and neurosurgery—Michael Salcman knows how tricky ideals become when you try to live them—whether you live for beauty or to repair the world or both. Salcman is a poet who has paid his dues, crafted a voice whose modulations are seamless: the profundity is natural as daylight. In Shades & Graces, his canvas is life’s entire arc.

     —D. Nurkse

Michael Salcman, poet, physician and art historian, was born in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, came to the United States in 1949 and trained in neurosurgery at Columbia University. Formerly chair of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, he is the author of six medical textbooks and eight previous collections of poems, including The Clock Made of Confetti, nominated for the Poets Prize, The Enemy of Good is Better, and A Prague Spring, Before & After, winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize. He edited Poetry in Medicine, a standard anthology of classic and contemporary poems about doctors, patients, illness and healing. His poems appear in prominent journals including Arts & Letters, The Café Review, Harvard Review, Hopkins Review, Hudson Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore and Raritan. His previous collection, Shades & Graces: New Poems, was the inaugural winner of the Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize in 2020.