Miroslav Holub, Poems Before and After (Bloodaxe Books, 1990)
Surrealism is rather like Death by Chocolate. It's great in small doses, but if you get too much at once, you're going to get sick. Poems Before and After, which is for all intents and purposes the Collected Translations up to 1990, is verging on the too much.
Miroslav Holub is a brilliant writer, one of the same generation of Eastern European writers that produced poetic giants Charles Simic and Vladimir Holan. And Holub's best work easily stands with Return to a Place Lit by a Glass of Milk or A Night with Hamlet (see, e.g., Vanishing Lung Syndrome). And there's no denying that the work here is, for the most part, fantastic. Absolutely lovely stuff. But there's so much of it, and Holub's work is so dense, that the reader is best advised to read this book over a space of months, dipping into it now and again before retreating and mulling over what he's read. This is one for your permanent collection; you'll be going back to it over the space of years. However, if you're a Holub newbie, as most folks are, you're probably best advised to start with one of the single collections and work your way up to this one. *** ½