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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

SYNCOPES AND SYNAPSES Miroslav Holub: Vanishing Lung Syndrome, translated by David Young and Dana Hábová (Faber) £4.99
Miroslav Holub: The Dimension of the Present Moment and other essays, edited by David Young (Faber) £4.99

Miroslav Holub's belief that poetry might become as popular a commodity as football has conditioned his practice throughout his career and has secured him a large audience at readings in any number of ostensibly 'unpoetical' places. A new collection of poems, Vanishing Lung Syndrome, is organized around the medical terms syncope, symptom, syndrome and synapse, at least three of which designate abnormalities in a diagnostic context, and all of which serve as a reminder that Holub operates at the furthest possible remove from typical poetic utterance. An internationally known immunologist, his manner and method are scientific; tried and trusted formulae - a statemental or informational opening, often anecdotal, with a quizzical sting in the tail on having yielded to an exploratory or experimental impulse - are once again much in evidence here, leaving the largest question-mark of all over the formal divisions of the volume. A non-scientist might have expected there to be more variation between the various syns than is visible on this evidence. The hard core of Holub's supporters will obviously be delighted to encounter some forty new poems, but the less partisan may well prefer an approach by way of The Dimension of the Present Moment, an unexpected opportunity to become acquainted with his prose.

Holub writes in a splendidly spare, wry manner that makes each of these essays a pleasure to read, even when (as often) the scientific vocabulary proves a challenge. Observation of the laboratory of life is obviously second nature to ...


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