Goldstein, Melissa Anne 1969–

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Goldstein, Melissa Anne 1969–

PERSONAL: Born September 11, 1969, in Silver Spring, MD; daughter of Larry (a mathematician) and Sandy (in special education) Goldstein. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1992, M.L.A. (with honors), 1995. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, swimming, music "in many forms," city life, family activities, attending ballets, jazz clubs, and modern dance performances.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—Philadelphia, PA.

CAREER: Freelance writer and public speaker, 1995–. University of Pennsylvania, founder of Lupus Support Group; volunteer with local chapters of Arthritis Foundation, Lupus Foundation of America, and American Juvenile Arthritis Foundation.

MEMBER: National Coalition of Independent Scholars, Phi Beta Kappa.


Travels with the Wolf: A Story of Chronic Illness, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 2000.

Work represented in anthologies, including Function through the Lifespan, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1994. Contributor of poetry and essays to periodicals, including Pharos, Topics in Advancer Practice eJournal, and JAMA.

SIDELIGHTS: Melissa Anne Goldstein once told CA: "I began my writing career at the age of eleven when, trembling, I shyly read a poem I had written, a haiku about an eagle, before my fifth grade class. I finished and, to my surprise, my recitation was greeted with loud applause. I looked up from the page and found my fellow students and teacher smiling at me—in understanding. They had shared with me my image of the eagle floating in the bluest sky. Through the power of words and poetry, I had connected with them in an entirely new way. I had found the wonders and glories of language and artistic expression. From that time, poetry and other forms of writing became a fundamental way for me to organize my thoughts, comprehend the life about me, and come to terms with my experiences. In the sharing of my work with others, my writing, especially my poetry, has also served as a vital link to people.

"It is many years since I wrote that haiku, and now I have to come to a special point in my writing career: the publication of my first book, Travels with the Wolf: A Story of Chronic Illness. Narrated through both poetry and prose, Travels with the Wolf is an autobiographical account of my experiences with lupus. It is my story of becoming a young woman, writer, and teacher in the presence of severe, often debilitating disease. It is an exploration of my relationships with my family and friends as the illness steals into our lives, and it is the record of my struggle to maintain my independence and identity despite disease. Finally, it is my journey to find my spiritual core.

"This book is not just about lupus. I use my experience of the illness as well as sociological, literary, and historical research to portray and understand the dilemmas faced by the chronically ill person in our society. In my conclusion, I call for reform of today's health care system, which does not meet the needs of the chronically ill or their physicians.

"Writing Travels with the Wolf was an extremely satisfying and enjoyable experience. It was also something of an adventure as I created my own form. I needed to figure out how the diverse pieces of the book—my poetry, narrative prose, overarching metaphors, research, and varied quotes from others—could all be integrated into one, seamless whole.

"Though I did not have an exact model from which to work, I did have a literary hero whom I followed in spirit: William Carlos Williams. He also experimented in form, in some instances weaving his prose and poetry together. Most of all, in him I found a kindred soul. He, too, believed in the value of writing about daily, lived experiences; and he used his writing as a way to find and affirm the beauty, order, and meaning in a universe that so often seemed ruled by chaos, suffering, and ugliness. Writing was a way for him to form a connection to other people. He conceived of literature as a way for human beings to share their different worlds and become enriched by the exchange.

Later, Goldstein added: "I also found Sharon Olds, a writer who shares this same faith in poetry. I have come to deeply respect her, not only for the beauty of her work, but also for her efforts to use poetry in practical ways. For her, and Williams, poetry comes from one's immediate community and flows back to it in a circle, enriching both poet and audience.

"My commitment to taking part in this dynamic relationship between writer and audience, as well as my love for experimenting with literary form, led me to my almost completed current project, Mapping the Everyday: Poems of Navigation. These interlocking poems portray individuals going about their daily rounds. Yet in often mundane situations, the characters are confronted with basic questions or dilemmas we all share. What does a child owe a parent—or a parent owe a child? What is the meaning of faith in the context of an individual life? Some characters find insights that grant them a sense of fulfillment and peace. Others remain trapped in their situations. But it is the innate, human need to seek and understand that the poet observed and records—as a fellow explorer and mapmaker.

"As I complete Mapping the Everyday, I am continuing with my other projects, which include both shorter and longer pieces. It is a particularly exciting time to be writing poetry and shorter fiction. What is prose? What is poetry? What is a short story? The traditional answers to these questions are being boldly challenged, and I am enjoying taking part in the new work being produced. I am finding that some of the techniques of my shorter pieces are influencing how I am constructing my novel.

"Though it has been a time of change in my writing, I find myself sometimes returning to the beginning. I also write essays, mainly creative nonfiction, concentrating mostly in the areas of health and chronic illness, as well as literature and medicine. I often use my poetry when giving lectures and readings in medical schools, finding that poetry is the most powerful tool I possess in my efforts to help others understand my experience of chronic illness. When a certain hush falls over the room after I've read one of my poems, I know I have reached the students and physicians in ways that hours of lecturing could not have accomplished. I am reminded of my eagle haiku, my first flight into poetry. Those days of connection always serve as a powerful reminder of why I write."

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Goldstein, Melissa Anne 1969–

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