The Poet-Scientist: The Poetry of Miroslav Holub
David Grayson
David Grayson Page 1
IN 1996, Miroslav Holub gave a reading at the University of San Francisco. He opened the reading with a joke. "I'm a poet-scientist," he declared. "Do you know the difference between a poet and a poet-scientist?" The crowd waited. "A poet is usually late; a poet-scientist always arrives on time."1

Holub was born in 1923 in Pilsen (in what was then Czechoslovakia). His father worked as a lawyer for the railways and his mother was a language teacher.2 Holub lived through the Nazi occupation, the Communist period, and the Velvet Revolution. During the Nazi occupation, all universities were closed and Holub was conscripted to work at a railway station.3 Holub also suffered significant re-taliation for engaging in reformist activities during Communist rule (as will be discussed below).

Besides a renowned career as a poet and literary essayist, Holub was also a distinguished immunologist (M.D. and Ph.D.). He was an editor of the scientific journal Vesmír ("The Universe") and worked for many years at the Microbiological Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science. He published over a hundred and fifty scientific papers, and he even developed a strain of hairless mice that were used to study various diseases.4

Asking questions is a hallmark of science, and Holub's poems are stubbornly inquiring. He asks questions about everything, from genes, to disease, to fate. For Holub, asking a question is a first step: