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The Passing of Bill Holm, A “Literal” Friend

William "Bill" Holm

On Wednesday, February 25, 2009 poet and essayist Bill Holm passed away at the Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota reportedly due to complications from pneumonia. He was 65 years old, his life full and his accomplishments many.

A native of Minneota in Southwewstern Minnesota, Bill Holm was a 1965 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, to which he returned in 2002 to deliver the commencement address. He earned a graduate degree from the University of Kansas. After teaching at the Hampton Institute and a university in Xi’an, China, Holm spent 27 years teaching poetry and literature in the English Department at Southwest Minnesota State University.

In May of 2008, he won the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, but it was not his first honor of distinction. He previously received the 2000 Prairie Star Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, a Bush Foundation Arts Fellowship and a grant from the National Foundation of Arts.

Holm authored many successful books including Eccentric Islands: Travels Real and Imaginary, Coming Home Crazy: An Alphabet of China Essays and, most recently, The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland, a book of provocative essays regarding the fate of America (his “home, citizenship and burden”) written at his cottage on a creek in Northern Iceland.

Holm also loved to play the piano and upon retiring, said: “I’ve started another project that pianists shouldn’t avoid for too long, and that is trying to play Chopin decently. I used to make fun of Chopin, but now, the more I play him, the better he gets.”

He was a popular speaker to many a captive audience. Well known for his interest in morality and social justice, Holm was often likened to Thoreau and Whitman. If you were ever fortunate enough to hear him read or meet him, as I was, you might most remember him for the Mark Twain-esque twinkle in his eye.

Services will be held at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 414 E. Lyon Street, Minneota, MN at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, 2009.

Visitation will take place at Rehkamp-Horvath Funeral Home, 124 E. 1st Street, Minneota, MN from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, 2009.

Professor Holm will be greatly missed.

Read a tribute written by one of his students here.


4 thoughts on “The Passing of Bill Holm, A “Literal” Friend

  1. How sorry I am to read here of Bill Holm’s passing! Just this morning I discovered his “Windows of Brimnes” book (2007) in my local public library and have been reading it since coming home. As usual with his writing, it is a delight. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Holm in Washington DC about twenty years ago at a Fulbright-related gathering. I enjoyed talking with him so much that I immediately read “Coming Home Crazy”, a book I have since lent and recommended to many others. We also enjoyed his “Boxelder Bug Variations”. I’m very sad to learn he’s gone, and just a few years after he rediscovered Iceland in a serious way–he was much too young.

    Posted by Melinda Stuart | 9 March, 2009, 2:20 pm
  2. I last saw Bill Holm appear with Garrison Keillor at a book reading last year in St. Paul. Their conversation was as engaging and entertaining as Bill’s reading from his book about living in Iceland. And seeing Bill on a Twin Cities public television station doing a guided tour of his hometown–Minneota, Minnesota–was priceless, esp. his reading of a poem,”Playing Haydn for the Angel of Death.” The impact of his verse came with the video segment showing him playing Haydn on the piano in his home with those big hands of his moving so gingerly on the keyboard. He had a deep voice and a sweet spirit. His parting is sweet sorrow, but he leaves us with a calm, graceful spirit of blunt honesty and gentle wisdom forged with wit and compassion.

    Posted by David Kleppe | 31 March, 2009, 11:16 am
  3. Fell asleep reading his “work”. Self-righteous, self-important, about as interesting as Bill Bryson and about as “prophetic”. Another upper-middle class White boy with too much time on his hands.

    Posted by Nixon is Lord | 15 December, 2010, 7:11 pm


  1. Pingback: 把我嘴巴啃鬃….my teeth broken » Blog Archive » Garrison Keillor Remembers Bill Holm - 26 February, 2009

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