Holub, Miroslav

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jun-24-1994


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."


Holub is one of the fine Czech poets of the 20th century and also a practicing scientist and clinical pathologist. His poems are generally spare, free-form, and anti-literary. He considered William Carlos Williams a major influence on this work, but while Williams strove for simplicity in his shorter poems, Holub often probes several layers of meaning. Like Williams, though, Holub’s poems frequently deal with the grim realities of life and are written with scientific exactitude. This poem’s powerful, Whitmanesque rhythms make it a wonderful piece for reading aloud. It is a glorious reflection on the hard beauty of the real.


Translated by George Theiner & Ian Milner.

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Selected Poems



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