Very sad news out of Minnesota today. We have lost, in my opinion, one of our truly great American voices; the poet and essayist Bill Holm died at the too-young age of 65. He has been placed in the tradition laid down by Whitman and Twain by his Minnesota literary compatriots Garrison Keillor and Emilie Buchwald, among others, and held that place firm and strong.

I was lucky enough, as the events coordinator of Mr. Keillor’s bookstore Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minnesota to host Bill on a couple of different occasions. He was one of my literary heroes and to meet him in person was to see before you someone who understood what it meant to live life and to enjoy all that life had to offer, from pianos to politics to poetry (though, I suppose “enjoy” isn’t exactly the right word for how he felt about most current politics. Maybe “engaged fully” would be a more apt phrase.)

I still have on my phone a message from Bill calling to get his “marching orders” for one of the readings we were doing at the bookstore; I just listened to it yesterday, in fact. And once again I saved it. Just as I will do the next time my phone gives me the option of either deleting or saving the voice calling me from Minneota, Minnesota, asking for his marching orders.

“This time, as so often

before, Death snatched a big one

when we could not stand to lose

his voice that spoke, not alone,

but for us millions who longed

for a world green, alive, about to bloom.”

(from “Paul Wellstone – October 25, 2002,” a poem by Bill Holm)

Read obituaries from The Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, and a remembrance from Garrison Keillor.

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