Miroslav Holub

1923–1998
Miroslav Holub

Miroslav Holub is a scientist by vocation and considers his poetry a pastime. Holub told Stephen Stepanchev in a New Leader interview that the Czech Writers Union had offered him a stipend equivalent to his salary as a research scientist to enable him to devote two years to his poetry. "But I like science," he said. "Anyway, I'm afraid that, if I had all the time in the world to write my poems, I would write nothing at all."

Holub told Stepanchev that, for him, science and poetry enjoy an "uneasy relationship." "In scientific circles," he said, "I try to hide the fact that I write verse. Scientists tend to be suspicious of poets; they feel that poets are, somehow, irresponsible." And he admitted that his profession was similarly held suspect by his literary friends. But Holub sees no real conflict between science and poetry. As a scientist, he says, he believes in "an objective reality" and hates superstition. But, he adds, "I'm open-minded about all the phenomena of experience, including the irrational." In his introduction to Selected Poems, A. Alvarez points out that the "source of Holub's strength is his subtle, critical acceptance of the realities as they are, his refusal either to shut things out or to praise them simply because, like Everest, they are there. His poetry is based finally on an unsentimental, probing, compassionate, witty sense of the modern world."

Holub often employs scientific metaphors in his poems, a technique that, although he considers it "a risk," allows him to "find poetic equivalents for the new reality of the micro-world." Holub told Stepanchev that one of the reasons he uses metaphors at all is "to avoid the aridities of rationalism." "The other reason," he adds, "is that I like the play or dance of metaphors, just as I like the play of ideas in a poem. My poems, by the way, always begin with an idea, an obsessive idea of some sort. . . . I try to achieve effects of suspense with my long lines and tremendous emphases with my short ones."

Holub read his poems in 1965 at the Spoleto Festival, Italy, in 1967 at the YMHA Poetry Center in New York under the auspices of the Lincoln Center Festival, in 1968 at the Harrogate Festival, England, in 1974 at Poetry International, Rotterdam, Holland, in 1975 at the Cambridge Poetry Festival, Cambridge, England, and in 1981 at the International Poetry Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Holub speaks English, French, and German.

Career

Bulovka Hospital, Prague, Czechoslovakia, clinical pathologist, 1953-54; Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Institute of Microbiology, Prague, scientific worker, 1954-65; Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York, New York, NY, visiting investigator, 1965-67; Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Institute of Microbiology, Prague, scientific worker, 1968-71; Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Prague, scientific worker, beginning 1972. Writer-in-residence at Oberlin College, 1979 and 1982.

Bibliography

Poetry:

  • Denni sluzba (title means "Day Duty"), Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1958.
  • Achilles a zelva (title means "Achilles and the Tortoise"), Mlada Fronta, 1960, 2nd edition, 1962.
  • Slabikar (title means "Primer"), Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1961, 2nd edition, 1964.
  • Jdi a otevri dvere (title means "Go and Open the Door"), Mlada Fronta, 1962.
  • Zcela nesoustavna zoologie (title means "A Completely Unsystematic Zoology"), Mlada Fronta, 1963.
  • Kam tece krev (title means "Where the Blood Flows "), Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1963.
  • Tak zvane srdce (title means "The So-Called Heart "), Mlada Fronta, 1963.
  • Anamneza (title means "Anamnesis"), Mlada Fronta, 1964.
  • Selected Poems, translation by Ian Milner and George Theiner, introduction by A. Alvarez, Penguin, 1967.
  • Ackoli, Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1969, translation by I. Milner and J. Milner published as Although, J. Cape, 1971.
  • Obwohl, Hanser Verlag, 1969.
  • Beton (title means "Concrete"), Mlada Fronta, 1970.
  • Aktschlusse/ Halbgedichte, Hanser Verlag, 1974.
  • Notes of a Clay Pigeon, translation by I. Milner and J. Milner, Secker & Warburg, 1977.
  • Sagittal Section, translation by S. Friebert and Dana Habova, Oberlin College Press, 1980.
  • Interferon or on Theater, translation by Habova and D. Young, Oberlin College Press, 1982.
  • Naopak (title means "On the Contrary"), Mlada Fronta, 1982.
  • "On the Contrary" and Other Poems, translated by Ewald Osers, foreword by A. Alvarez, Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), 1984.
  • The Fly, translated by Ewald Osers with others, Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), 1987.
  • (With Ota Janecek) Sagitalni rez, Odeon (Prague, Czech Republic), 1988.
  • Poems Before and After, collected English translations by Ian Milner with others, Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), 1990.
  • Model cloveka, Slovensky Spisovatel (Bratislava), 1990.
  • Ono se letelo: Suita z rodneho mesta, NAVA (Plzen, Czech Republic), 1994.
  • Intensive Care: Selected and New Poems, Oberlin College Press (Oberlin, OH), 1996.
  • Shedding Life: Disease, Politics, and Other Human Conditions, translated by David Young with others, poems translated by Rebekah Bloyd, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
  • Narozeni Sisyfovo: Basne 1989-1997, Mlada Fronta (Prague, Czech Republic), 1998.

Prose:

  • Andel na koleckach (reports from America; title means "Angel on Wheels"), Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1963, 4th edition, 1967.
  • Tri kroky po zemi (title means "Three Steps on the Earth"), Nase Vojsko (Prague), 1965.
  • Die explodierende Metropole (written in Czech; title means "The Exploding City" and refers to New York), German translation published by Verlag Volk and Welt (Berlin), 1967.
  • Zit v New Yorku (title means "To Live in New York "), Melantrich, 1969.
  • Poe cili udoli neklidu (title means "Poe or Valley of Unrest"), Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1971.
  • Interferon: Cili o divadle, Mlada Fronta (Prague, Czech Republic), 1986.
  • Principu rolnicky: Poznamky a namitky na 43 radek doprovozene myslenkami druhych o vede, kulture a jinych nesnazich, Melantrich (Prague, Czech Republic), 1987.
  • Immunology of Nude Mice, CRC Press (Boca Raton, FL), 1989.
  • The Dimension of the Present Moment: Essays, edited by David Young, Faber (Boston, MA), 1990.
  • Skryta zast vek u, Avicenum (Prague, Czech Republic), 1990.
  • Syndrom mizejici plice, Mlada Fronta (Prague, Czech Republic), 1990.
  • Vanishing Lung Syndrome, translated by David Young and Dana Habova, Oberlin College Press (Oberlin, OH), 1990.
  • O pricinach poruseni a zkazy tel lidskych, Prazska imaginace (Prague, Czech Republic), 1992.
  • The Jingle Bell Principle, translated by James Naughton, Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), 1992.
  • Aladinova lampa: Poloreportaze ze zemi na vychod od raje, Baronet (Prague, Czech Republic), 1996.

Also author of monographs and more than one hundred papers on cellular immunology. Editor, Vesmir (magazine devoted to the popularization of science), 1951-65; member of editorial board, Lidove Noviny (newspaper of the Czech Writers Union), 1963-65, 1968.

Further Reading

PERIODICALS

  • A. Hoffmeister, Cas se nevraci, Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1965.
  • Landfall, Number 4, 1966; Miroslav Holub, Selected Poems, Penguin, 1967.
  • New Scientist, January 26, 1967.
  • Tri-Quarterly, spring, 1967.
  • New Statesman, April 7, 1967.
  • Times Literary Supplement, April 27, 1967.
  • Listener, July 6, 1967.
  • New Leader, September 25, 1967; B. Svozil.
  • Vule k intelektualni poezii (title means "Will to Intellectual Poetry"), Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, 1971.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume IV, Gale, 1975.
  • Discover, May, 1982.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

  • Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1998, sec. 1, p. 19.
  • New York Times, July 22, 1998, p. A17.
  • Washington Post, July 24, 1998, p. D6.

Articles About MIROSLAV HOLUB

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POET’S REGION Eastern Europe

LIFE SPAN 1923–1998

Miroslav Holub

Biography

Miroslav Holub is a scientist by vocation and considers his poetry a pastime. Holub told Stephen Stepanchev in a New Leader interview that the Czech Writers Union had offered him a stipend equivalent to his salary as a research scientist to enable him to devote two years to his poetry. "But I like science," he said. "Anyway, I'm afraid that, if I had all the time in the world to write my poems, I would write nothing at all."

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