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A Prague Spring, Before & After by Michael Salcman


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A work of great rage, sorrow, and love, Michael Salcman’s majestic A Prague Spring tells an almost unbearable story that needs to be told over and over and never forgotten. Beginning with coldly matter-of-fact poems of family members lost to and escaping the Shoah, Salcman documents how his parents survived and met, and how he got along in Brooklyn, the glorious borough of his childhood, baseball’s Dodgers, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Finally, he doubles back to visit the country of his birth. And in a series of stunning poems, a prose piece, and a final poem to his cousin Magda, Salcman ties together past and present, and gives us one more glimpse into the soul of a survivor, two really, his older cousin, and himself. —Robert Cooperman, author of In the Colorado Gold Fever Mountains, winner of the Colorado Book Award for Poetry

A Prague Spring is a beautiful blend of the lyric imagination with historical and autobiographical facts. In this book, ignorance, cruelty, and murder lose. Art, and the truth, wins. —Thomas Lux, Bourne Chair in Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and author of God Particles

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. Salcman uses the compression of narrative, meditative and lyric poetry to “bring you looted treasures: History’s twisted snakes.” Here we find a Holocaust survivor who is “a stick leaning on a stick, / an insect on a branch” as well as the backwards-running Jewish clock of Prague (“What city tells time like Prague?”) counterpoised with Salcman’s Brooklyn: “sweet / borough of my youth, heart and lung / of life.” Kafka and Salcman's ancestors haunt the Czech capital where “a pile of dust once pushed a cart of salt and spices / on a medieval street.”  The poems revisit totalitarian defenestrations, slaughters and repressions as they recount, wonder and pray, all the time knowing “the brain is a savage beast, it eats when and what / no other organ eats….” At once autobiography, history, testimonial and memorial, A Prague Spring is a revolutionary collection of important and necessary poems, confidently written and—especially with Salcman’s tonal skills—always absorbing; it is further deepened by how perfectly Lynn Silverman’s dark photographs of Prague capture that ancient city’s shadows and ghosts. —Dick Allen, Connecticut State Poet Laureate (2010-2015) and author of This Shadowy Place, Present Vanishing, and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected


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