Thursday, July 29, 2010

Miroslav Holub - Vanishing Lung Syndrome

I recently came across Vanishing Lung Syndrome, by Miroslav Holub from the Field Translations Series 16 (1990), translated by David Young & Dana Hábová. Better late than never, I suppose, but I can’t believe something this fascinating and excellent has been just one room over for twenty years. Well, there you go. I’m making amends.

This book feels, for the want of a better word, appropriate. As soon as I’m finished reading it, I’m going to order his selected poems, titled Intensive Care, that Field also put out (in 1996). Follow the link below to check it out, and then order it (or Vanishing Lung Syndrome) immediately.

It’s rare I find a poet whose world I feel I’ve been living in, as strongly as I feel it right now. I’m pleased. There’s a new thing in my world that was there all along.

Night Calamities

The storm
went crazy in the darkness.
Prison cells opened.

The sentenced innocents
stamp on the jumping tower. The next routine
is the triple screw dive while
the tiny infantile Decalogue
drowns by a bank where
tunnel waters
thunderously wash away
flowers from a grave.

Our heel caught in the travertine,
we stare into the runaway dark,
but only the permanently invisible ones
can see us.

The prophet Calchas, just off hand,
categorically demands that the already burned
be burned at the stake, while agreeably whining,
not-so-bright laureates
ride the escalator, as
cities burn down and choke beyond the horizon
and the airport holds a register
of historical errors.

And early, at dawn,
in a burning plane, before the explosion,
a little boy walks down the aisle and says—
Are we there yet, Mommy?


At 7/29/2010 9:02 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

I love this book, too. I have it at home. I read it in graduate school at the suggestion of a teacher of mine who knew I had deferred medical school (Holub is a Physician/Pathologist). I just read some of his poems again about 6 months ago when I was trying to figure out the "tone" or lack thereof of one of my own drafts. Holub has some great stuff.

At 7/29/2010 10:33 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yes! It's a wonderful, ranging aesthetic. In a poem like "Skinning" for instance, where he's going through the steps of skinning with a kind of scientific accuracy for a couple pages, and then bursts into:

Already the first skinned rabbit
starts running on broken-boned limbs

At 7/29/2010 12:53 PM, Anonymous A. Leahy said...

A highlight of my MFA program was going out with a group for drinks with Miroslav Holub after his reading. We were just talking about him the other day. I'm all about the science & poetry connection, too!

At 7/30/2010 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first read Holub in Oberlin Press' great prose poem anthology MODELS OF THE UNIVERSE. --Geoff

At 7/31/2010 1:43 PM, Blogger Heather Christle said...

"Half a Hedgehog" is a long-standing favorite for me.

(How happy for you to be finding all this now.)

At 8/02/2010 9:53 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I've met so very few poets. Met, in the way of "talking with." My envy is deep!

Geoff and Heather,

Thank you for the info. I have more things to look up now. Much appreciated.


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