Friday, February 27, 2009

Bill Holm

Minnesota author Bill Holm dies at 65
St. Paul, Minn. — Essayist and poet Bill Holm was nationally known for his distinctly Minnesotan writing.
He's the author of several works, including "Boxelder Bug Variations," "Coming Home Crazy," and "Playing the Black Piano."
In 2007, Holm wrote "Windows of Brimnes: an American in Iceland." It was named for his cottage near a small fishing village in Iceland, where he spent his summers.
His friends and colleagues compare Holm to Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau for writing so devotedly about his home town of Minneota.
They also compare him to Mark Twain, because of his tendency to mix affection and humor with harsh political criticism.
Just this past May Holm won the prestigious McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, which is given to people who could work elsewhere but choose to stay in Minnesota and contribute to the state's cultural life.
"We are losing his authenticity, we are losing his love for the land, for Minnesota itself, and we are really losing one of our greatest authors," said Vicki Benson, arts program director for McKnight.
Milkweed Editions published much of Holm's work, and director Daniel Slager said those works had a sense of appreciation for the people he wrote about.
“The farther away from Minnesota that I got, the more I realized that my material as a writer …had something to do with this funny little town where I was born.” –Bill Holm
"I was particularly drawn to Bill's non-fiction, which combines an interesting political sensibility -- constantly vigilant defense of little people, powerless people, and a constant suspicion of power and its workings," said Slager. "But never excessively earnest, always infused with good humor, and with real love and respect for people from all walks of life."
Holm was born in 1943 on a farm north of Minneota, Minn., and continued to live in Minneota while teaching at Southwest State. Holm taught for 27 years before retiring in late 2007.
While he traveled widely over the years -- to Europe, to China and to Africa -- and spent summers in the Iceland of his ancestors, Holm told MPR in a 2008 interview that he kept coming back to Minneota.
"The farther away from Minnesota that I got, the more I realized that my material as a writer -- not just the material, but the way that I saw the world and the lens through which I observed American, the world and my life was somehow -- had something to do with this funny little town where I was born."
Holm was an occasional guest on A Prairie Home Companion radio show on American Public Media. The program's host, Garrison Keillor, called Holm a great man.
"And unlike most great men, he really looked like one. 6 foot 8 inches, big frame, and a big white beard and a shock of white hair, a booming voice, so he loomed over you like a prophet and a preacher, which is what he was," said Keillor.
"I wish I'd been there to catch him as he fell," Keillor continued. "I hope his Icelandic ancestors are waiting to welcome him to their rocky corner of heaven. I hope his piano goes to someone who will love it as much as he did. I hope that people all across Minnesota will pick up one of his books and see what the man had to say."
Holm died Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 at the Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., according to Rehkamp-Horvath Funeral Directors.
Funeral services are pending.

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