Crossing the Tape

Cover art by Leon Polk Smith

Michael Salcman


ISBN 978-1-959556-99-2     128 pages        $18.00


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Michael Salcman is a true polymath: retired brain surgeon, art scholar and critic, salt water sailor and sports fan, and above all a poet of rare distinction.  His most recent collection, Crossing the Tape, is just the latest proof of how good he is and how universal are his interests and obsessions.  Ekphrastic poems bump up against poems about baseball, about the sad fate of urban areas, about art, about ordinary mortality, and most personally about the horrific murders perpetrated during the Holocaust and other atrocities, as in “The Vanished World of Iryna Abramov,” a villanelle set during the Russian invasion of Ukraine: “In Bucha, the flowers grow fat on the graves.”  This is a collection to be read and read again, and to cherish with each re-reading.

     Robert Cooperman,

author, most recently, of Bearing the Body of Hector Home and Hell at Cock’s Crow.


Crossing The Tape is a rich and varied collection whose five sections can be enjoyed as short books in their own right. The story begins in memoir, with moving and evocative poems of the poet’s past, questions memory, and contributes to the telling of history, “how life went on in my sort of century”. The poet sometimes surprises with unexpected observations: in “The Bricks of Baltimore” he finds that Baltimore townhouse bricks wind up as building facades in Washington, D.C. In the section on “Body & Brain” he reflects on a life as neurosurgeon and polio victim; and in the section “Ekphrasis” he communes with fellow artists. Always, this poet, who has kept his “ear against the sky”, reminds us to appreciate, “how lovely the recentness of an instant.”

     Owen Lewis, M.D.,

author of Field Light and Knock-knock, recipient, 2023 Rumi Prize and 2023 Guernsey International Poetry Prize


There are as many Michael Salcmans as there are poems in Crossing the Tape for he is a noted brain surgeon and neuroscientist, a distinguished art collector and lecturer on art, a husband, lover, father, son, citizen, polio survivor and author of many collections of poetry. Each of these Michael Salcmans comes alive in these intense, hard-won, and meticulous acts of witness. Language is his scalpel to pry apart the most delicate tissues of the heart and its history and make it whole.

     David Bergman,

Emeritus Professor of English, Towson University,  author of Plain Sight

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.