Bill Holm dead at 65

Bill Holm

I saw him read a couple of times since I first learned about his writing 15 years ago. Always captivating, always fascinating. Sometimes hilarious. Other times poignant.

He’ll truly be missed.

Details here. [via]


Paul Lundgren

about 15 years ago

Confession: I am personally responsible for the water damage to the Duluth Public Library's copy of Holm's book "Boxelder Bug Variations."

I accidentally dropped it into Keene Creek about 13 years ago. You should have seen me chasing it downstream, trying to run and take off my shoes and socks at the same time in order to retrieve it.

I met Mr. Holm in 2005 and told him this story. He thought it was pretty funny.

For a tall guy with a big belly, Holm was pretty nimble. Louis Jenkins told me he dropped him off late at the Sky Harbor Airport one time and the old guy threw his suitcase over the fence and quickly climbed over it. (Two months after the 911 attacks, no less.)

Helluva guy.


about 15 years ago

Wow, what a great story about him climbing the fence at the airport! It is a sad day indeed, Mr. Holm was quite a character, and quite a storyteller. He'll be missed. All my publishing industry pals down in the Twin Cities are quite sad, especially his publisher, Milkweed Editions.


about 15 years ago

Ouch. I saw Bill speak at last year's NEMBAs. He was so vibrant, a bit larger than life--it's hard to imagine him gone. Barrett, your description nails the Bill Holm I saw. Thanks for the post.


about 15 years ago

A sad loss... I can hear still hear his voice. I interviewed him for a Ripsaw story years ago while I was preparing to move to godfersaken Kansas. I was clinging tight to his notion that "The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth" and that I'd survive on the prairie away from my beloved Lake Superior. I later saw him at a festival in Kansas and told him it wasn't working for me. He looked at me and said... "Well, it won't work if it's not home." 

Wise man. A sad loss...


about 15 years ago

Wow, Gina, he pretty much said it all, didn't he? And obviously, you followed his advice and came back to Minny.


about 15 years ago

Tried to write this last night but couldn't get it to come out right.  Here's another go ...

I think that Bill Holm may have had more of an impact on my life than any other author, and more than many other human beings of any profession, come to think of it.  His book "Coming Home Crazy" affected my decision to spend a semester studying abroad in China, which in turn got me onto traveling and I've since visited a couple dozen countries.  And my worldview and my consciousness have since ... exploded.

His essay "Mallard Island" got me thinking in powerful ways about beauty and inspired me to TRY running the Historic NorShor Theater for about a year.  That effort was a dismal failure and even precipitated the failure of my marriage and various other kinds of personal and creative ruin.  But our emphasis on beauty in all its forms did have the chance to impact the community for a brief time.  I got to be close with some amazing, creative, and passionate people that I probably would have never met had I never read that essay and felt that inspiration.  Plus, I got to be a part of events that will live on in people's memories perhaps ... for much longer, I have no way to guess how long.

His essay "Molokai" got me thinking in powerful ways about my own Christian faith and the brilliant example of Fr. Damien who devoted his life to living(authentically), the Christian message.  Against all kinds of better advice he wound up living with the outcast "lepers" of Hawaii, eventually giving his life for those he served and bringing great honor and integrity to Christians during a time when many others around the globe were tarnishing the Christian way.  

Thanks Barrett and others for sharing you thoughts and memories, I too, had a chance to meet and spend time with this bushy giant.  I interviewed him once for my radio show and he was generous with his time and I cherish that memory, sometime this weekend I will try to dig out that tape and find something to play it on.  

Ultimately, he showed me, personally, that it is good to be gigantic and creative and odd.

Not sure how much more space I have here, but I will try to post a poem below to give a taste of the man's brilliance and his playful spirit:


Someone dancing inside us
   has learned only a few steps:
the "Do-Your-Work" in 4/4 time,
    the "What-Do-You-Expect" Waltz.
He hasn't noticed yet the woman
    standing away from the lamp.
the one with black eyes
    who knows the rumba.
and strange steps in jumpy rhythms
    from the mountains of Bulgaria.
If they dance together,
    something unexpected will happen;
if they don't, the next world
    will be a lot like this one.

Bill Holm (retrieved from


about 15 years ago

A professor gave me "Coming Home Crazy" a few years ago. It is great, he was great.

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