Miroslav Holub

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Poems Before & After: Collected English translations (Bloodaxe Books, 2006)

Miroslav Holub was a Czech poet and immunologist, and the latter of these career paths was always especially influential on the former. Holub borrowed a lot from his experiences working in immunology and, because of that, much of his poetry is thought to have a scientific tilt to it.

Holub’s work was almost always written without a set rhyme scheme, which has made it especially easy for translators to work with over the last few decades. It is a testimony to the importance and appreciation of Holub’s work that his poetry been translated into over 30 languages, and it remains particularly popular in English-speaking landscapes.

While Holub was popular in his native lands, it wasn’t until 1962 when his worked was first published by an English publication, the Observer. Holub’s work appeared more frequently in British publications in the years following this, until eventually it was praised by the likes of Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney for its relevance and craft. There is even evidence to suggest that Holub was a great influence on Hughes’ own work, when it came to writing the iconic Crow.

Alongside his work in poetry, Holub also wrote short essays contending with different elements of science, including biology and medicine.

In celebration of world poetry, we believe Holub is a worthwhile poet to be spending some time with this week, and we’re very grateful to Neil for this excellent suggestion.