Showing 1 - 8 of 8 annotations associated with Holub, Miroslav
Summary:In this short poem (11 lines) the writer sees a whole world in the microscope: among the cells, a world of dreams and suffering, of courage and death.
Summary:An old woman dies at home. After "the young ones had gone to bed," she arises and moves around the house, doing the usual things that defined her life--putting out the candles, mending a stocking, finding a lost glove--before she falls back into her coffin and is cremated in the morning.
This selection of Miroslav Holub's poems is organized around five major topics--genealogy, anthropology, semiology, pathology, and tautology--rather than chronologically. The poems, some of which date back to his first collection in 1958, were translated into English by a number of different persons, but mostly by David Young, who has had a long-term collaboration with Holub.
Holub states his major preoccupation in "Bones," the very first poem in this collection: "We seek / a backbone / that will stay / straight." (p. 13) The search reaches its fullest expression in "Interferon," a long poem about messages, messengers, and interference: "Cells infected by a virus / send signals out . . .
And when a poet dies, deep in the night / a long black bird wakes up in the thicket / and sings for all it's worth." (p.159) The first step in the search is to learn to interpret the signals, and to understand the black bird's song. To do that, one has to ask questions. Yet, in the face of enormous "Suffering," we are drawn to passivity: "But I ask no questions, / no one asks any questions, / because it's all quite useless." (p. 147) How to overcome the inertia and proceed, even in the face of likely failure?
Holub reminds us that even "In the Microscope" we find "cells, fighters / who lay down their lives / for a song." (p. 149) In fact, there may be something worth fighting for, although perhaps we can only see it under extreme circumstances, as in "Crush Syndrome," where a concrete mixer snaps up the hand of a man cleaning it: "The finger bones / said a few things you don't hear very often...In that moment / I realized I had a soul." (p. 174). But perhaps what we call the soul is really just our deep yearning to survive, as in "Heart Transplant": "It's like a model of a battlefield / where Life and Spirit / have been fighting / and both have won." (p. 179)
The poet expresses pity for all the poor, poor animals--for dogs, for mice, for earthworms, even for the "protozoons / that sway their cilia / so desperately." On the other hand, "patients / with progressive amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can just / fuck off." They should go live in the world of Hieronymus Bosch. [21 lines]
Once in a while someone fights for breath. The crowd around him continues with its business, not realizing that inside the man there might be something drastic going on. There might be a sea monster growing, or a raven named Nevermore, or "a huge muteness of fairy tales," or "the wood-block baby that gobbles up everything." Medical tests show that the lung is vanishing and becoming "an abandoned room" in a queer world where "only surgeons / write poems." [34 lines]
- Willms, Janice
Summary:In typically terse poetic structure, utilizing fresh new images, Holub visualizes removal and replacement of a human heart during a transplant procedure. He describes the throb of the extracorporeal circulation mechanics as an "inaudible New World Symphony" as he elevates the imagery of the hole in the chest where once resided the "king of Blood" transiently into the cosmos. With the arrival of the "new heart," the imagery again becomes earth bound: the structure is sewn in place, the beats resume and the "curves jump like / synthetic sheep" as the EKG rhythm resumes.
- Willms, Janice
Summary:On surface, this metaphorically endowed poem details the life cycle of a tapeworm, beginning as a tiny resident in the "protective slime" of mucosae, eventually outgrowing the host, and overrunning the environment as it attains a "philosophical dimension / in which it's the only form of matter. . . . " The parasite shrinks again into "little spores of embecile agreement" which wait for another chance, another cycle of growth and power. The parasite metaphor works beautifully for a wide variety of social and political phenomena the poem does not identify.
Summary:This is a powerful poem about the "ugly, grunting . . . disgusting creatures" the poet sees through his microscope. We know the creatures are dead, we know the creatures are sliced, we know they’re splayed on the pathologist’s slides. Are they microbes? Are they "bits of animals"? Are they cancer cells? No one asks "whether these creatures wouldn’t have preferred" to live "their disgusting life / in bogs / and canals" or to eat one another. No one asks any questions, "because it’s all quite useless . . . like everything else in this world," a world in which the poet meets "a lonely girl," a general, a rat, even "my own self at every step."