Miroslav Holub’s literary reputation rests primarily on his poetry, but he also published several collections of prose as well as more than one hundred scientific papers and the monograph Immunology of Nude Mice (1989). He has also produced essays on mostly scientific, autobiographical, and cultural topics.
A widely renowned immunologist as well as an acclaimed literary figure, Miroslav Holub successfully combined the two seemingly disparate careers of scientist and poet. He is generally regarded as one of the most important poets of Eastern Europe to emerge after World War II and is widely praised for his ability to integrate scientific fact and human experience in his poetry. His poetry, as well as his essay collections, has been translated and published in many languages, and he has been widely acclaimed outside his homeland, especially in the English-speaking world.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Holub was a highly sought after reader of his poetry, performing at such locations as the Spoleto Festival in Italy, the Lincoln Center Festival in New York, the Harrogate Festival in England, Poetry International in Holland, and the Cambridge Poetry Festival in England. He was a writer in residence at Oberlin College for a semester in 1979 and again in 1982 and was also awarded an honorary doctorate.
Because of his success as a scientist, Holub was able to travel widely even during the Cold War days of the Iron Curtain, conducting research and presenting papers at scientific conferences. His most notable scientific achievement was the development of a strain of nude (hairless) mice that were used to study various diseases.
Eagle, Herbert. “Syntagmatic Structure in the Free Verse of Miroslav Holub.” Rackham Literary Studies 3 (1972): 29-49. Using a theory of free verse based on writings by the Formalists and Structuralists, Eagle provides a detailed, technical analysis of specific poems by Holub. Eagle uses the term “sytagmatic balance” to define the intonational principle that he believes unifies much of Holub’s free verse.
Heaney, Seamus. “The Fully Exposed Poem.” Parnassus 11, no. 1 (1983): 4-16. An excellent review of Holub’s Sagittal Section and Interferon: Or, On Theater and a discussion of the effectiveness of Holub’s poetry in translation.
Holub, Miroslav. “Poetry Against Absurdity.” Poetry Review 80 (Summer, 1990): 4-8. Based on a lecture given by Holub at the Conference on Czech Literature, 1890-1990, at New York University in March of 1990, this essay effectively recalls the attempts by Holub and fellow Czech poets to record “the feeling of human responsibility in the overwhelming absurdity” of life following the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia.
Walker, David, ed. Poets Reading: The FIELD Symposia. Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College Press, 1999. This collection of brief but excellent essays on Holub’s poetry was originally published as a symposium on Holub in FIELD magazine. Dennis Schmitz’s essay “Half a Hedgehog” and Tom Andrews’s study “Hemophilia/Los Angeles” are particularly effective analyses of individual poems.
Young, David. Introduction to Interferon: Or, On Theater. Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College, 1982. A brief examination of the role of science and theater in Holub’s poems.