mcknightThe 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

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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!
written by Valeri Tchijik, February 27, 2009
My condolences, Marcy!

Just heard the sad news on the radio.
Please stay in touch.

Always with love to you and Bill,
Valeri Tchijik
written by Jim Haas, February 27, 2009
The world is a better place for Bill's having shared himself with us. It is a poorer place without him this cold morning. I treasure his work.
written by Ricky Peterson, February 27, 2009
Bill Holm played the organ at our wedding--joyously.

David and I met him when we were all part of a cohort of graduate students in English at the University of Kansas teaching freshmen and sophomores. Each of us had a battered much-used desk in a huge temporary annex room where maybe 50 of us held office hours for our students. Bill’s voice would boom out, exhorting and cajoling his struggling young Kansans to read, to think, to wonder! One of his freshmen was named Bambi Buck, and I think another was Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain, the basketball star and indifferent student.

Bill played piano at bars on weekends so he could afford to eat well, and he would segue into improvisations on the classics when the clientele got friendly enough. One weekend He organized carloads of us to drive to Minnesota for a poetry reading against the Vietnam War. We heard Robert Bly, Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov and a dozen other poets say it so much better than we could. We were proud to hear them. Proud to feel we were actually part of something larger, even though we were living on the only hill in Kansas in the middle of what at that time wasn’t even the Great Flyover yet. Bill introduced us to his mentor, Robert Bly, who welcomed us so warmly that we imagined we’d drive up to Minnesota every few weeks to see him. On the way out of town, Bill took us up a country road to a fine restaurant surrounded by farmland where I ate my first frogs’ legs.

I remember Bill in love during those years. He often declaimed sonnets to us all with great tenderness. He read voraciously, and he had absorbed so much of what he read that he could always come up with an appropriate quotation to underline his point and often totally distract any adversary. There were always adversaries, because Bill more than any of us loved to make vast generalizations and then see what came of them. His heart and mind were full of how beautiful life could be, and the shortcomings of reality wounded him.

He embraced life and that made him take us all in, too, his coworkers, fans, rivals, pals, dependents—his loving friends. One time I came into his bedroom after midnight with a few other rowdies to make him listen to a song we had made up that captured the whole idiocy of our nation’s foreign policy in a few choice words. He had been fast asleep, but let us wake him up, only grumpy for a minute or two. He laughed his always hearty peal, got out of bed and put on a robe to serve us some kind of refreshments—coffee?—until we also got sleepy and he could shoo us out the door.

Whenever we saw him later, Bill was the same, and I mean the SAME: a radiant, whimsical, profoundly optimistic but aching critic of the difficult world that he loved with all his being.

written by Jeff Mittelholtz, February 27, 2009
I "met" Bill Holm around 10 years ago through his writings. His latest book on life in Iceland and the view from his window was/is full of small yet great and gracious wonders. I am a birdwatcher and Bill's comments about birds and being drawn to them himself - brought me many a smile. His views on life and living added value to my own. I'll miss him and his writings.
written by Megan Pratt, February 27, 2009
I can't imagine my Lit/Creative Writing degree without Bill Holm. After he recovered from his disbelief that my only exposure to Gulliver's Travels was a coloring book in the early '70s, we got down to poetry. As I wrote and wrote, trying like hell to impress him, my focus returned again and again to Bill's Nike socks. His sweaters were patched and comfortable, and he seemed to care so little for "things," preferring his words and friends and music, and, I hoped, his students, that the socks always threw me. And while the others trifled with references to Santa Claus and twinkly blue eyes, any poems that I attempted to write about Bill included Nike sweat socks. And that's how I will remember him - comfortable and well-worn, knowledgeable beyond belief about things I've yet to imagine, and finally, one day, impressed by a poem I wrote. So, to Bill, who encouraged us to write about sticks and road kill and cell phones, and to include the racy poems when doing readings in churches, you touched my life in a way that if you had been absent, a large part of me would remain undefined, undeveloped, and locked in a pen. Your encouragement and inspiration will live and live. Bill believed that occasions should be marked by poems, so here is mine:
My Last Class With Bill
Sidewalks stretch farther than I have walked,
but you laid the path and the pavement
so I would know which way to go.

You stood and proclaimed with confidence
before I knew the language and rhythm
of the rhyme and meter and then learned to discard both.

Your fingers on the scarred mother-of-pearl keys
bang out the score so many of us fumble through,
beginning again at the beginning again.

Your corduroys, thin at the knees
and higher than the creek when you sit,
reveal your Nike sweat socks to all and sundry.

The score turns dissonant,
the meter returns - Dr. Suessian in it’s perfection,
the pavement cracks and the spell
you’ve woven around us drops away
as I realize that you have either succumbed
to the materialistic world that demands that
our socks be branded, or, more likely, someone who doesn’t
know you well has given you a less than thoughtful gift.
written by Mark Hugo, March 04, 2009
I met Bill and "his life companion" last year at Brit's pup after a Minnesota Orchestra concert. He only introduced himself as Bill. His talk about the Iceland connection had me looking him up when I got home. I wrote him a kindly note telling him how much I enjoyed talking with he and his WIFE. I guess I errored there, in using the Congregational/Pilgrim sentiment, where a wedding ceremony has been considered "optional" due to the lack of such contrivance in the Old or New Testament.

Despite perhaps his attitude towards that, I found the conversation delightful. We all had come from a marvelous performance of Brahm's second piano concerto. I was very impressed that Bill and Marcy had come up from southern MN just for the concert.
We also all enjoyed the fare at Brit's pub that night. Might have been cold outside, but it was warm and friendly inside.

I am, therefore, GREATLY saddened by his passing. I'm happy we have much of his writing left.

I pray heaven is Iceland..with an AZ makeover temperature wise!
written by David, March 08, 2009
I heard Bill Holm today(Sunday March 8,2009) being interviewed on NPRadio on the Rick Steves travel show. I really enjoyed hearing Bill talk about Iceland while filtering in his broader ideas. I just logged onto Bill's website to contact him with some questions and perhaps have a debate with him and learn some more. I didn't hear the radio show from the beginning and somehow didn't realize it was in part a memorial and a tribute to this fine gentleman. I am shocked and saddened to learn Bill is gone, and reminded that time is indeed precious....and fleeting. I'll look into Bill's writings and see what mind treasures he has left to the world. May Bill Holm rest in peace.

written by Wesley V. Hromatko, D.Min., March 17, 2009
Bill was remembered at the Unitarian Church of Willmar (UU)on the Sunday following his death. From time to time Marilyn and I saw Marcie in Marshall. He was a frequent speaker and his loss was felt keenly. We are fortunate that he will live on in his books and in loving memories.

Wes Hromatko,for the Unitarian church caring committee

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