Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From Manhire to Holub

A few days ago a mate of mine - you know who you are - was complaining over a beer that this blog is long on politics and short on literature. I might have pointed out to him that only a couple of weeks back I flourished the verses of that national institution, the venerable Bill Manhire, only to be reprimanded for my pains by one Annonymouse. In an effort to atone for the sin of sampling Manhire, I'm going to serve up something out of a book of translations from the work of Miroslav Holub, the Czech poet and pathologist who died in 1998.

I'd never read much of Holub's work - I remember we were given one of his poems to pore over and explicate in school, which probably didn't make me want to see more. The other day, though, I plucked his book off a dusty shelf, and was immediately struck by the power and compression of the poems it had been harbouring patiently over the ten years since I bought it at some garage sale. An introduction by the ever-reliable A Alvarez makes some useful points about Holub's preoccupations:

In his poetry, as presumably in his science, he continually insists on probing below the surface of the received, everyday experience to reveal new levels of meaning, to lay bare new emotional facts. It is as though his poems and his researcher's microscope worked in the same way, and towards the same end.

Here are my two favourite poems so far:


Here too are dreaming landscapes,
lunar, derilect.
Here too are the masses
tillers of the soil.
And cells, fighters
who lay down their lives
for a song.

Here too are cemeteries,
fame and snow.
And I hear murmuring,
the revolt of immense estates.


This is a boy.
This is a girl.

The boy has a dog.
The girl has a cat.

What colour is the dog?
What colour is the cat?

The boy and the girl
are playing with the ball.

Where is the ball rolling?

Where is the boy buried?
Where is the girl buried?

and translate
into every silence and every language!

where you yourselves
are buried!


Anonymous Generic Viagra said...

TEXTBOOK OF A DEAD LANGUAGE is an spectacular poem, when I was in the school, I had to read one per day, it was so interesting because our teacher came from The Czech Republic 22d

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