The other day I posted a poem written by the Czech immunologist/poet Miroslav Holub, who was said to be one of that country’s greatest poets of the century, as well as a well-published research scientist. In the preface to one of Holub’s collections of poems, Sagittal Section, Lewis Thomas, another biologist–poet, noted that Holub was composing what both scientists and poets filter everyday live for, those “points of connection between things in the world which seem to most people unconnected.”
October 21st, 1993, David Morley, an environmental scientist–turned lyric writer, interviewed Holub for roughly an hour about the immunologist’s thoughts on performing his poetry, the greater relationship between science and the arts, and the impact of the 20th century’s events in the Czech Republic on Holub’s writing. As a whole, the interview is a meditation on living between two worlds that inform each other in a reciprocal fashion. Holub’s words function as a subtle counter to those artist narratives of a solitarily focused creator, one whose life is the making of their craft and whose art is in turn their life.
The immunologist–poet allows instead a process, a space where exchange of idea and inspiration occur, where scientific discovery and lyric writing are neither mutually exclusive categories nor entirely dependent acts in the dance. And yet as much as these two elements of Holub’s life inform his view of the world, they are not an all—there is more to life than work and production, Holub asserts. To take one’s self so seriously, to see their art or science as an absolutism, is to be a “workaholic,” a word the interviewee abhors in the English language. Instead, life should be about play, about a childhood sense of exploration and humility—Holub sees a different path. As he notes during the exchange, “I am serious about science, and I am serious about my poetry, but I do not take myself seriously.” Humbling words from a humbling man.
Find the full audio recording here.