Bill Holm - Minneota Poet

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The Books of Bill Holm ~

Windows of Brimnes - An American in Iceland

brimnesBill Holm is one of a kind. A Minnesotan of Icelandic ancestry, his travels have taken him all over the world, providing the material for a number of rich and memorable books. In The Windows of Brimnes, Holm travels to Brimnes, his fisherman’s cottage on the shore of a creek in northern Iceland. From there, he considers the fate of America — "my home, my citizenship, my burden" — in these provocative essays.


Playing the Black Piano

pianoIn Playing the Black Piano, poet Bill Holm confronts themes of aging, AIDS, friendship, and music, revealing an everyman sensibility that celebrates the beauty, truth, and evanescence of everyday life. Typical is “Playing Haydn for the Angel of Death,” in which the reaper sits in a straight-backed chair in the side yard, in no hurry to claim his due as long as strains of Haydn drift through the window to amuse and distract him.


The Music of Failure

music-of-failure In a compact collection of two dozen short essays and prose poems Bill Holm explores his life and, by extension, our lives, “and how they flow together to make the life of a community, and then a country, and then a world.” Holm, whom Roger Miller called “a Garrison Keillor for Icelanders” and Garrison Keillor called “the tallest radical humorist in the Midwest,” grounds his observations on modern America in the Minneota, Minnesota, he knew as a boy in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth

heart-can-be-filledGrowing up, Bill Holm knew what failure was: "to die in Minneota." But after returning to his hometown ("a very small dot on an ocean of grass") after 20 years' absence, he wasn't so sure. Finding pleasure in the customs and characters of small-town life, in The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth he writes with affection about the town elders, seen by those in the outside world as misfits and losers. "They taught me what to value, what to ignore, what to embrace, and what to resist." In his trek through the heartland, Holm covers a satisfyingly wide emotional terrain, from scandalous affairs in the 1950s to his aunt's touching attempts to transcend poverty with perfume and movie-star airs.


Faces of Christmas Past

faces-of-christmas-past FACES OF CHRISTMAS PAST is an engaging, middle-aged look at the perils of Christmas, our own self-imposed burdens of ritual duty (like the newsy Christmas Xerox), and the more unsettling fact that successive Christmases, more even than New Year’s, mark the passing of our life from childhood to death. "Old Christmas card photos show us how we’ve aged," says author Bill Holm, "reminding us that, though time may curve in Einstein’s physics, in our small life it is a straight line to white hair and bifocals."

Holm also reminds us of the great consoling ritual of music, so rich and full of feeling at Christmas. Our best defense against age and death may be singing, he says, so we’d better open our mouths with courage and spirit to let the songs come.

Eccentric Islands: Travels Real and Imaginary

eccentric-island A master of the personal essay, Bill Holm ventures in this book to islands across the globe (Isla Mujeres, Molokai, Iceland, Madagascar, and Mallard Island) and within the realm of imagination. Full of music and discovery, abounding in riveting characters, places, and themes, Eccentric Islands is an exploration of the rocky, sea-washed contours of self.

The Dead Get By with Everything

dead-get-by A rural Minnesotan with Icelandic roots and a passion for music, Holm energizes conventional free verse with a variety of subjects ranging from Midwestern American politics to Bach's Goldberg Variations. The result is a book of eccentricity, charm, and, occasionally, great beauty. Noteworthy poems include "The Icelandic Language," in which there is "no industrial revolution;/ no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;/ only sheep, fish, horses, water falling./ The middle class can hardly speak it"; the moving prose poem, "Brahms' Capriccio in C Major, Opus 76, No. 8"; and "Piano": "the hand moving in these sensual ways,/as if black dots and lines on paper/ were directions to make love, notes attached/ to little hammers in the blood for him to strike." Some fine short poems are also included . "Learning Icelandic," for example, captures in eight brief lines the dizzy dislocation of being cast aloft in a language not one's own.

Coming Home Crazy: An Alphabet of China Essays

coming-home-crazyArranged by letter of the alphabet, with at least one entry per letter, these short pieces capture the variety of daily life in contemporary China. Writing about traditions that endure in rural areas as well as the bureaucratic absurdities an American teacher and traveler experiences in the 1980s, Holm covers such topics as dumpling making, bound feet, Chinglish, night soil, and banking. In a new afterword to the second edition, Holm reacts to recent changes. "Holm's view is entertaining, thought-provoking and touching. After reading his book, you won't look at the United States or China the same way." - Philadelphia Inquirer


Boxelder Bug Variations: A Meditation on an Idea in Language and Music

BoxeB This collection of poems, prose, and songs illuminates the broad imagination of Bill Holm as he contemplates the mysteries of life and beauty while musing about the state of the boxelder bug.

Other Publications...

Playing Hyden for the Angel of Death

Landscape of Ghosts

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Your Enemies

The Quiet Hours - By Mike Melman, Bill Holm