Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bill Holm is gone


"The weather was terrible in Iceland for most of the summer, mountains and sea shrouded in cold dense fog for a solid month, but I didn't mind. After the annual writer's week (which began with a howling blizzard on May 22), I hibernated at the table and finished the better part of two books. The Writers' Week crew this year were spirited and good humored but I was hot to scribble. One, a medium-sized essay on cabins, done for a Minnesota Historical Society Press picture book (Cabins) will come out in Spring; the Windows of Brimnes, my reflections on what the world and the 21st Century look like from out little northern perch, has one almost nothing else: "Partita #6 in E Minor", Liszt's transcription of the organ "Fuge in B minor", all 1.5 Sinfonias, Brahms' left hand version of the "Chaconne." Joyful, inexhaustible, stuff it braces the mind for the assaults of daily idiocy and violence. I recommend a half hour a day of Bach for the entire human race. Might save us."

Excerpt from Bill's 2006 Holiday Letter

Sometime this week Minnesota poet and essayist Bill Holm died. There are thousands, I'm sure--many of them students at Southwest Minnesota State University--who knew him far, far better than I did. I met him on several occasions, read him frequently, and once even made a kind of pilgrimage, along with my wife, to Minneota, the town where he lived--although he was born on a farm.

What I may well remember best about him was our first meeting, when he came into the house of Frederick Manfred, in Luverne, Minnesota, a featured guest of a gathering that drew dozens and dozens of people. What I'll never forget was the way he simply dominated the room. His gusto was nearly overwhelming, as were his opinions. He was as Icelandic and Manfred was Frisian, defiant and proud.

Like Manfred he was a huge man, a huge presence, and he was stubbornly committed to the region--Siouxland--that both of them considered home. Gifted in wildly diverse ways, he could make pianos do things they hadn't imagined.

But he was a writer and loved writing. Many in Minnesota and in this region don't know him, and that's sad. But those many who did know him or just read him know very well that the loss of Bill Holm, like the loss of Fred Manfred 15 years ago, leaves an emptiness that won't be filled.

The paragraph above is the post on his website, and it's him: Iceland, good writing, raucuous weather, music for the soul, and beefy opinions about the state of the world. There will be no other Bill Holm.

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