Miroslav Holub was a scientist/physician and one of Czechoslovakia’s most important (and prolific) poets. He was born on September 13, 1923 in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia and died on July 14, 1998.
After surviving both the Nazis and Stalin’s reign of terror in his homeland, he studied science and medicine, first at Charles University in Prague (he earned his M.D. in 1953) and later at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (where he got his PhD in 1958). He worked first as a pathologist but later became a scholar and research scientist.
Holub began publishing his poetry in 1958 when his first collection Day Duty was released. During the last 40 years of his life, he published a total of 16 poetry collections and 10 books of essays.
His poetry strongly reflects his interest in medicine and pathology; he is an almost ideal poet for scientists. His work also deals with the horrors of war and some of it is quite political. Many of his poems express a melancholy sense of humor, and his hard science topics are leavened by his strong understanding of history and mythology.
If you’re new to Holub’s work, I suggest you start with a collection called Intensive Care that was released by Oberlin College Press in 1996. All the work in here is wonderful, and the translations seem very good (inexpert translation was apparently a problem with some of his earlier works that were converted to English). If you seek out his other works, the most reliable translations seem to have been produced by Ewald Osers.
- Shedding Life: Disease, Politics, and Other Human Conditions (1997)
- Intensive Care: Selected & New Poems (1996)
- Supposed to Fly: A Sequence from Pilsen, Czechoslovakia (1996)
- Jingle Bell Principle (1992)
- Vanishing Lung Syndrome (1990)
- On the Contrary (1984)
- Interferon: Or, on Theater (1982)
- Sagittal Section: poems, new and selected (1980)
- Day Duty (1958)
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