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This review is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

AND YET IT MOVES MIROSLAV HOLUB, Poems Before and After (Bloodaxe)

Bloodaxe Books has laudably reissued the new expanded edition of Miroslav Holub's Poems Before and After (translated by Ian & Jarmila Milner, Ewald Osers, George Theiner, David Young, Dana Habova, Rebekah Bloyd, and the author). These poems, which cover the late writer's work published before the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and after to his death in 1998, are a welcome addition to the more contemporary poetry found in Bloodaxe's Scar in the Stone: Contemporary Poetry from Bosnia and poet Radmilla Lazic's work, translated with Charles Simic.

In poem after poem, the former Czech immunologist crosses from medical to madcap. The delight and inspiration found in scientific endeavour and mundane gesture hark back to Holub's mentor, William Carlos Williams. He nods to Williams obliquely and directly in various poems; 'Wings' begins with a Williams epigraph, 'We have/microscopic anatomy/of the whale/this/is reassuring', and fashions a response:

We have
a map of the universe
for microbes,
we have
a map of the microbe
for the universe.

...

But above all
we have
the ability
to sort peas,
to cup water in our hands,
to seek
the right screw
under the sofa
for hours

Drawn to the laughable yet ennobling senselessness of human behaviour, Holub celebrates man's tenacity.

The doctor-poet role boils down to nothing more ...


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