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Miroslav Holub's work was heavily influenced by his experiences as an Immunologist, writing many poems using his scientific knowledge to poetic effect. His work is almost always unrhymed, so lends itself easily to translation. It has been translated into more than 30 languages and is especially popular in the English-speaking world. Although one of the most internationally well-known Czech poets, his reputation continues to languish at home.
Holub was born in Plzeň. His first book in Czech was Denní služba (1958), which abandoned the somewhat Stalinist bent of poems earlier in the decade (published in magazines).
In English, he was first published in the Observer in 1962, and five years later a Selected Poems appeared in the Penguin Modern European Poets imprint, with an introduction by Al Alvarez and translations by Ian Milner and George Theiner. Holub's work was lauded by many, including Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, and his influence is visible in Hughes' collection Crow (1970).
In addition to poetry, Holub wrote many short essays on various aspects of science, particularly biology and medicine (specifically immunology) and life. A collection of these, titled The Dimension of the Present Moment, is still in print. In the 1960s, he published two books of what he called 'semi-reportage' about extended visits to the United States.
Works in translation
- Vanishing Lung Syndrome, trans. David Young and Dana Habova (Oberlin College Press, 1990). ISBN 0-932440-52-5; (Faber and Faber, 1990). ISBN 0-571-14339-3
- Intensive Care: Selected and New Poems, ed. David Young (Oberlin College Press, 1996). ISBN 0-932440-76-2
- The Rampage, trans. David Young, Dana Hábová, Rebekah Bloyd and the author (Faber and Faber 1997) ISBN 0-571-19253-X
- Poems Before and After: Collected English Translations (Bloodaxe Books; 2nd ed. (2006). ISBN 1-85224-747-9
- Shedding Life: Disease, Politics and Other Human Conditions trans. David Young, with assistance by Dana Habova, Todd Morath, Vera Orac, Catarina Vocadlova, and the author (Milkweed Editions, 1997). ISBN 1-57131-217-X
- The New York Times 22 July 1998
- New York Times obituary
- Overview of poetic career by Jan Culík and Jiří Holý, in English
- Dogmatika profile of Holub - Darran Anderson
- Miroslav Holub at the complete review - many further links
- Brief talk quoting his poem Ode to joy
- Biography in Czech
- Michal Bauer, 'The Portrayal of the United States of Miroslav Holub’s Writing From the 1960s'
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