standingbillLike Zorba, he will have to live to be a thousand years old to finish reading the pile of books that cram his TV and computer-free house, and to travel to the strange places that have roused his curiosity.

Bill Holm was born in 1943 on a farm north of Minneota, Minnesota, He continues to live in Minneota half the year while he teaches at Southwest State University in Marshall. He spends his summers at his little house on a northern Iceland fjord where he writes, practices the piano, and waits for the first dark after three months of daylight. He is the author of nine books, both poetry and essays. His most recent prose book is Eccentric Islands (Milkweed Editions, 2000).

He is working on a new prose book: The Windows of Brimnes, a long essay on what the United States and the last forty years of his own life look like when viewed from the windows of his house just south of the Arctic Circle. The view is not cheerful these days.

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written by Mike Hazard, February 26, 2009
Hear our late great poet here, talking about the great late Paul Wellstone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gRL4SiKsqo
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written by Craig Roberts, February 26, 2009
Bill, thanks so much. Your weekly letters from China on Minnesota Public Radio were very much appreciated. I'm kind to box elder bugs because of you. If you come back as a box elder bug, you'll have a place in my home next to your books. Craig
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written by Diana Raabe, February 26, 2009
We suffer a great loss with the passing of Bill Holm, but also celebrate a life well-lived and all that he left us.

Condolences to the Holm family.
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written by Brian , February 26, 2009
you're amazing, won't forget you
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written by Dick J. Reddy / Nancy L. Reddy, February 26, 2009
Our thoughts go out to all the members of Bill's extended family, especially those we shared life with in Minneota in the 60's. He made great piano music, great conversation, good humor and writings that will be shared with many generations.

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written by Taff Roberts, February 26, 2009
A week last Saturday night we picked up Bill at his winter digs in Patagonia and took him out to dinner at Mercedes Mexican Resteraunt in downtown Patagonia. He raved about the bean burritos and I got to sit across the table from the Viking Prairie Poet. Bill was becoming a bird watcher and told us of the Great Snowy Owl poem he was working on. He had spied the great white bird at the end of the runway when leaving Minnesota a few weeks ago. He was happy in Patagonia and he was writing well he said. He spoke of the great faith he had in our new President and the long night we had been through. I got to see him again in Tucson a week ago last Monday and he was off to have lunch with the Ambassodor to Iceland! That was the last time I saw him.
Oh my, what a loss. Tonight dear William I will drink to you and your giant spirit, your love of life, music and all that was dear to you heart.
My sympathies to you Marcy, Lester,Chuck and families.
Taff Roberts.
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written by Jon, February 26, 2009
It was my good fortune to have had lunch with Bill after a convocation at Carleton College more than a decade ago. I told him about my Icelandic grandparents, Matt Nicholson, who emigrated from Iceland, and Kristrun Marie Thorsteinnson, who was born and raised in Vallers Township. He leaned back in his chair and said, "By God, we're cousins" I asked how, and he replied "Through the Gislasons, of course." I never missed a reading and a chance to chat when he appeared at one of the bookstores in Northfield. My wife and I spend six months in Green Valley, AZ and six in Northfield. On Saturday, February 14, we drove down to a book fair in Patagonia, primarily because he was going to be there. I reintroduced myself, and we talked for some time as he autographed THE WINDOWS OF BRIMNES for me. On the way home, I said to my wife, "Bill didn't look good. I wonder if I'll see him again." I was stunned when I learned today of his death. Once Val and Bjorn Bjornson were gone, I considered Bill to have both earned and inherited the title of Mr. Iceland in the State of Minnesota. I admired him for his writing talent but, more importantly, for being himself, for living his life his own way. In my mind, he was the last of the Vikings in Minnesota, and perhaps in this country. I will miss him greatly.
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written by Paul Epton, February 26, 2009
I discovered Bill when I was the lighting designer for "Boxelder Bug Variations," a stage production at the Jon Hassler Theatre in 2001 that brought some of Bill's poems to life. Putting them on stage made about as much sense as writing a book of poems about boxelder bugs in the first place - it was one of the most wonderful shows that I've been part of. Thanks, Bill.
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written by Patti Isaacs, February 27, 2009
Someone once said that Americans all want to go to heaven, but we don't want to die to get there. Bill understood down to his bones that there were no shortcuts to a full life, and he laid it all out in The Music of Failure. I have read and reread this book and will read it again whenever I need to be reminded of what it possible in life.

It's reassuring to know that although I will no longer be able to be in the room to watch Bill work his mischief in person, I can sit in a chair with one of his books and get a peek into his giant heart and massive intellect.

Bill, you made the world a better place!
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written by Xiao Wang, February 27, 2009
Dear Marcy, Chuck, and the Holm family:

My deepest condolences to the passing of my beloved professor, Bill. He had touched so many lives both domestically and internationally.

On behalf of those students he taught and befriended in China, I offer my deepest sympathy. You are in our hearts forever.

Dear Marcy, take care

Love
Xiao

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written by Great-granny Koch, February 27, 2009
I met Bill only once. He was a kind a gentle man who introduced me to the joys of travelling to Europe bia Iceland. Strangely, I am deeply moved by his death.
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written by Anne Twiss, February 27, 2009
Hearing Bill read about living in cold, windy places like Minneota made it quite possible to enjoy life in Worthington for many years. I'm grateful for his poetry and essays. Thanks.
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written by Donal Heffernan, February 27, 2009
I remember when we were in China together, and Bill seemed like the tallest person in Asia. He was most generous to all and in particular to brother and sister artists, musicians, writers and readers. Selfishness was not in his DNA. His heart was as big as he was. A great loss to humanity. My deep condolences to Marcy and his family.
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written by Gunna & Hildur, February 27, 2009
Dear Marcy,
We are glad to have memories of Bill in Iceland,
our thougts are with you.
Love,
Gunna and Hildur
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written by Simon Coury, February 27, 2009
Dear Marcy,
So very sorry to hear about Bill (from Min). He was fuller of life than a dozen ordinary people, and gave so much and made so much.
It's been twenty years, but I've thought of him (and read him) often, and I've carried him in my heart as an inspiration and a guide, and always will.
My thoughts and love are with you,
Simon
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written by Judy Foster, February 27, 2009
I met Bill in 1970 when he was teaching at what was then Hampton Institute in Hampton, VA. A Virginia native, I knew nothing of Minnesota, but loved the colorful storeis he told of growing up in Minneota, the prairie, the blizzards, the ice-fishing, never imagining that I would, quite coincidentally, make Minnesota my home in 1979. When I was pregnant with my first child in 1975, a bunch of us went to the movies in Hampton. I can't tell you what the movie was, but I have a vivid memory of the drive home. Our exit was the last one before the Hampton Roads bridge tunnel from Hampton to Norfolk. There had been an accident in the tunnel and traffic was backed up past our exit. Bill, in the driver's seat, began to fume. At one point, he put the car in neutral, got out, and paced up and down the center line, shaking his fist at the traffic jam gods, and shouting his anger for all to hear. Mortified with embarrassment, we coaxed him back to the car. He continued to fume, right up until his car overheated, and we had to abandon it on the shoulder and walk to his townhouse a couple of miles away. Fortunately, Bill himself did not overheat to the point we had to abandon him, and, later, after a couple of whiskeys, he managed to settle down. I still remember him turning to us wistfully to ask, "Do you think I overreacted?" That image of Bill shaking his fist at the fates is still my favorite memory of him.

That daughter that I was pregnant with grew up in Minnesota with many memories of Bill's visits to our house. Yesterday, she posted this tribute on her younger sister's Facebook wall:

"A big man with a huge presence! When Bill rolled into town the good times always came with him. He made us laugh, he sometimes made us cry, he always made us find something to appreciate in this frozen land called Minnesota. He entertained us with his stories and his music. He was loved by many and God knows he loved generously, and often. He loved people. Bon Voyage good friend. Oh, to hear the tales you would tell now."

Perhaps he made his first impression on her before she was born. Our family loved you, Bill. May you make peace with the gods in your next life.
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written by Krisín Bjorg, Gulli og stelpur, February 27, 2009
Það er sorg í hjörtum okkar vina Bills. Hann var einstakur maður - hjartahlýr, skemmtilegur og svo margt, margt fleira. Ég hef þekkt Bill í yfir 30 ár og heimurinn var svo mikið betri þegar hann var hér. Ég á eftir að sakna hans mikið. Hugur minn er hjá konu hans Marcy Brekkan og öllum vinum hans sem nú eiga um sárt að binda
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written by jim Lenfestey, March 01, 2009
Last time I talked to Bill he was in Patagonia and was going to have dinner that night with Jim Harrison, that other bear of a northern writer refugee (Jim a black bear to Bill's Polar). I'd loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation, not to mention the massive brisket of beef and buckets of whatnot they certainly consumed, washed down with Bordeaux for Harrison, Scotch for Bill. Among the favors Bill did for me was to clean out my liquor cabinet of Scotch, left over bottles after my beloved mother died, herself also affectionate toward the abominable peaty stuff. But there were many others, in no hierarchical order:
1) his essay for Mn Center of Book Arts annual Winter Book a few years ago, recorded on CD, about the sweep of Minnesota literature, is a masterpiece I listen to again and again, and recommend everyone hie themselves to MCBA for the CD if not also for the beautiful anthology of poets he edited. 2) His call for an anthology of pig poems about 30 years ago. He never did the anthology but I never got his idea out of my head, and this year, with Bill's blessing, and his poem and a few others he selected, the anthology will be published by Red Dragonfly Press. 3) His McKnight Award dinner at Little Szechuan, the delicious way he shared his sudden bounty - the place was packed. 4) The time a gaggle of weary travelers washed up at his door in Minneota, and we picnicked in the town park. 5) His willingness to show up with something stentorian, literate, wise, acerbic, bemused, amusing and on point at a moment's notice. e.g his introduction of Bly (as a last second stand-in for Keillor, who was double-booked) on the occasion of the Univ. accession of Bly's papers. He was perfect, and I had again booked him for the same duty for the Bly celebration at the University libraries this April 16-19 - he was going to introduce the celebratory reading, AND join us in Madison on the 19th to regale us with Bly/Holm tales. Fortunately he wrote some of them down, so we can read them in our pale voices. 6) I believe he believed the wordless splendor of music superior to poetry, and in that he may be right, but he loved to roll syllables around in his jaw from his great chest harboring his great heart, and we are all much the better for his life's devotion to it. 7) On a personal note, I found on my answering machine the frigid Sunday of 18 January a message from Bill, saying the cold weather having driven him to reread Burton Watson's Chinese poets and then my "Cartload of Scrolls", and his message praised my book, "you've got keeper there, Mr, Lenfestey,." i will save that message for a very long time. 8) "Coming Home Crazy" was my blueprint for my trip to China, and to honor its brilliant format I insisted to my editor at The Rake that we follow it; unfortunately the Rake went under with my essay stuck in its belly, but Bill read it, said stick to my guns. 9) Finally, "The Music of Failure," an essay that hit me like a truck, as transformative of the way of seeing the world as any essay written in America during the past six point five decades I have been alive. Thank you, Bill.
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written by Scott King, March 01, 2009
A lover of wide open spaces with big horizons; a lover of pianos, especially when used to play Bach or hymns; a lover of books, especially old books printed from metal type on rag paper and bound boldly into boards; Bill seemed a sailing ship from another age, he charted an independent and eccentric course in an age of career paths, cell phones, and jet planes.

His example validated many of my own interests, and certainly my esteem for old books. On the day of his death, in the 1925 edition of Joseph Conrad's The Mirror of the Sea, a sturdy old book published by John Grant, Edinburgh & London, I came to this passage:

"For what is the array of the strongest ropes, the tallest spars, and the stoutest canvas against the mighty breath of the infinite, but thistle stalks, cobwebs, and gossamer? Indeed, it is less than nothing, and I have seen, when the great soul of the world turned over with a heavy sigh, a perfectly new, extra-stout foresail vanish like a bit of some airy stuff much lighter than gossamer."

And indeed, it's a great gust of fate that's taken Bill, and taken much that is rare and needed from among us, too soon, too suddenly.
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written by Paul August Jasmer, March 01, 2009
It will be difficult to imagine the Minnesota Landscape without the presence of Bill Holm, especially the way his voice and stature rose from the prairie grasses and was carried by the winds across these open spaces. On a windy March day in 1994, I went up to Bill Holm and asked him to autograph the poem “Head-Ranson” (“Hǫfuðlausn” by the great 10th century Icelandic poet, Egil Skallagrimsson, recorded in Egil’s Saga). In the margin Holm wrote, “I am not Egil – but wish I had been! Bill Holm.”

Bill, we’ll be listening for your voice wherever it is heard in the sweep of the winds. In the meanwhile, enjoy the converse with the now ageless poets who have been longing to greet you.
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written by Cindi Pavlis, March 01, 2009
Marcy--I will forever remember Bill. I was part of the Global Studies adventure to China in 1996. That trip changed my life, you and Bill were a large part of making that trip memorable. I was at a crossroads in my midlife, your example and friendship made me appreciate the present, have reverence for the past and anticipate the future by admiring the goodness in the world. Thank you. Cindi
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written by Jane Snell Copes, March 01, 2009
Oh, if he just COULD come back as a box elder beetle. . . maybe it will be alright. I am so sad.
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written by Bruce Noll, March 03, 2009
Good Bye, My Fancy

We all thought we
would live longer than Walt
and then Bill left us

Holm was so wonderful
we would nudge ourselves
to listen, reveling in our
good fortune to be in his presence

Everything we read of his
every conversation we had
with him, Walt was lingering
in the corner sharing in our delight

Bill lived Leaves of Grass.
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written by R. Maura Atcherson, March 04, 2009
Bill was a student of my father's in St. Peter in the early 60s. I don't have a clear memory of when he became a part of our visits to Minnesota, after my father moved our family to Iowa, just that when he was a part of those visits the visits were better. I remember the year he found his love for ragtimes, regaling us and our dear friends, the Owens, with rag after rag. It was so infectious that we children couldn't keep from dancing and as soon as I could I bought the complete works of Scott Joplin and started playing them myself. I still have that book, tattered and worn, and now mostly unused. After a cross country drive he told our friends, the Owens, of stopping in a particularly majestic mountain pass and pulling his clavichord out of the trunk of his car to play Bach. I'd like to think that God was listening to what must have been a very exquisite private concert. This is the memory I keep of Bill, a man who took the time to play music for mountains. He was a magic presence in our lives growing up and I'm grateful for knowing him.
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written by Hu Zong feng , March 05, 2009
Dear Marcy:
I'm your iron brother Hoover. Bill was, is and will always be the beloved teacher and friend in my life. Take care and give my kiss and hug to him .
Hoover in China with tears
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written by Hu Zong feng , March 05, 2009
Yesterday, when I gave lessons to my students, I showed Bill's pics and ours during the past years. I read some of Bill's words to them. I told them that it is Bill and You changed my life and influenced me all my life. The first poems I translated into Chinese is Bill's and I Love you.
Your Iron Brother in Xi'an China
Hoover
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written by Stacy, March 20, 2009
I had the pleasure of having Bill as a professor at Southwest State University and was fortunate enough to have our paths cross again with him and his wife Marcy in Red Wing, MN, last year at the Moondance. Bless you Marcy. You are in my thoughts!!! He'll be greatly missed! Stacy
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written by Michael Nelson, April 03, 2009
As a native Minneotan, it's nice to see the words spilling forth to honor the man who so loved the little town in which he was raised.

Growing up, I always knew who Bill was - he was the guy that wrote about boxelder bugs - but I never really knew what Bill was. Sure I knew he wrote poems and essays, but that seemed like his job - like my dad going to the bank to work, or my mom going to school to teach - just the thing he did during the day. To have books lying around the house that bore his name didn't strike me as unusual. I never would've guessed he was beloved the world over.

I was reminded of this small town naivete as I heard my parents talk about today's funeral. They couldn't believe that two (of the many) bouquets sent to honor Bill came from China ("China, Michael!"), couldn't believe Garrison Keillor would come "all the way from St. Paul" to pay last respects to his dear friend and couldn't believe that tiny St. Paul's - with a seating capacity of 150 - was ill-suited to hold all of the mourners that turned out to send Bill off with a few of his favorite Icelandic hymns.

Perhaps those of us that passed by him in the cereal aisle at Finnegan's - the only grocery store in Minneota - or ran into him at the post office didn't fully grasp that we were living with a legend and maybe we'll live to regret that, but we can be assured that he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Rest in peace, Bill.
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written by Jeff Pesek, June 18, 2009
I am a Minneota native who knew Bill. I lived 3 miles away from his Uncle Abo and we did business with Abo buying & selling feeder pigs. I am 52 as i write this and Bill came into my life in the late 60's, early 70's. He was quietly suspected by all God-fearing farmer parents at the time as an entity unknown to SW MN at the time, but his demeanor and very self brought him past all that and made him a cherished son. Bill was playing piano at supper clubs at the time, well before his days teaching at SSU, trip to China, home in Iceland. My last communication with Bill was painting his house in 1977 which was a hoot of dipping into the cellar for a bottle of beet wine and taking challenginging ladder balance competitions after smoking that which resided in the sheet music space under his piano stool. Dont hold this against ol Bill, SW MN was dearly begging for someone of his charachter but hadnt realized it yet. A couple years prior to that I was overseas with the army and had a postcard from Bill one day. He was walking the Aran Islands of Scotland or Ireland, just moseying around pickin up rocks I like to think, planning his next strategy and happily disecting what had brought him to such great fortune in life. When addressing Bill Holm you really should include Daren Gislason. They were cousins and lived on seperate levels of Bills house forever. Between the 2 of them I feel privaledged in that they both gave me some of my formative outlook on life in general. Daren taught me to love reading. Bill was my first show of a person totally into music. A talk with either was always as a one-on-one, no superiority, nuthing to go home feeling lectured about but rather given the freedom to accept and use as you will or wont and drop the rest as you saw fit.
A GREAT BREATH OF FRESH AIR AND INDIVIDUAL THINKING. Hope Valhalla is all you want it to be Bill.
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written by Alecia Puppe, November 23, 2009
Hello friends and fans of Bill Holm,

Classical Minnesota Public Radio is broadcasting Giving Thanks: A Celebration of Fall, Food and Gratitude on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 at 9 a.m. Tune in to 99.5 Classical MPR in the Twin Cities (or find your station here) or listen online at classicalmpr.org to hear Classical MPR’s John Birge host two hours of reflections on the meaning of gratitude and the blessings of Thanksgiving through words and music. The program includes Bill Holm reading “The Island of Pheasants on the West Eighty”.

This season, Classical MPR brings you the classical music to get you in the spirit of the season, featuring programs for Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and the New Year. Additionally, we've created Holiday Classics, an online stream of classical holiday favorites available to listen to anytime. Enjoy the music of the season and view Classical MPR's complete schedule of programs at www.mpr.org/holidays.

Thank you and happy holidays!
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written by Douglas, November 28, 2009
I only got to know about Bill Holm after he died. After I finished,"The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth" I felt I was given new lenses from which to see the world. I think this book has an incredible message to send Americans in this day and age of greed, fashion, glamor, and media spin.

What an amazing book and what an amazing author. He was an American treasure. I hope that his name and his books will grow in popularity as time goes on.

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