Listen: Remembering Bill Holm, MN poet and essayist who died this week. [pledge drive last day]

Essayist and poet Bill Holm, who was nationally known for his distinctly Minnesotan writing, died at age 65. On this program, Midday features some highlights from Holm's many public appearances and rememberences from those who knew him.

Holm is the author of several works, including "Boxelder Bug Variations," "Coming Home Crazy," and his 2007 book, "Windows of Brimnes: an American in Iceland." That final book was named for his cottage near a small fishing village in Iceland, where he spent his summers. In this program, Midday features some highlights from Holm's many public appearances.

[This audio contains pledge drive segments]


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LAKSHMI SINGH: From NPR News in Washington, I'm Lakshmi Singh. President Obama has a new Iraq war strategy-- withdrawing combat brigades over the next 18 months.

BARACK OBAMA: So let me say this as plainly as I can. By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

LAKSHMI SINGH: Speaking at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina today, President Obama told troops that the military will keep a large presence in Iraq this year to help with security during important national elections. Italy's foreign minister is meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is offering to help resettle detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Franco Frattini said that the US hasn't yet made any specific requests about resettling detainees. But he said Italy wants to help the Obama administration close the detention facility.

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MICHELE KELEMEN: Frattini said that he could see a situation where former detainees are kept under surveillance in Italy and not given the papers to travel freely throughout Europe. But he says US officials still haven't provided any list of prisoners they'd like European states to resettle. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

LAKSHMI SINGH: In Bangladesh, officials say they have found the bodies of dozens of people at the scene of a mutiny by the country's border guards. They say the dead are officers, buried in uniform in mass graves. At least 50 people died during the uprising. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES: The mutiny began two days ago, reportedly after senior officers from the Bangladesh Rifles, the border guard force, refused to consider demands for better pay for the notoriously low-paid troops. It ended when the mutineers surrendered after tanks surrounded their barracks in the capital Dhaka, and the government offered an amnesty, though the conditions aren't clear. One surviving officer told reporters the rebelling troops opened fire indiscriminately.

Many of the mutineers tried to slip away. Hundreds fleeing in civilian clothes have since been arrested. Philip Reeves, NPR News.

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STEVEN JOHN: From Minnesota Public Radio News, I'm Steven John. In the latest twist in the senate recount trial, Minneapolis poll worker Pamela Howell was again removed from the witness stand after disclosures about additional contacts she had with lawyers for republican Norm Coleman. The move comes just a day after the three-judge panel hearing the case reversed an order that struck Howell's testimony after it was learned she supplied materials to Coleman's team that were not given to democrat Al Franken. The judges are now considering whether to toss out Howell's testimony about election day errors she said she saw that could have caused some people's votes to have been counted twice.

15 Duluth area businesses are experimenting with an approach to sustainability that got its start two decades ago in Sweden. The science-based framework called the Natural Step is used by companies like Home Depot and McDonald's. Tracy Meisterheim is supervising the project in Duluth. She says people are ready to try Earth-friendly business practices.

TRACY MEISTERHEIM: Those who I've spoken with who are new to sustainability are so excited. When that understanding really sinks in, I'm seeing true excitement about moving in that direction and almost an urgency that, what have we been waiting for?

STEVEN JOHN: The project involves learning about how ecosystems work, analyzing how a business impacts natural systems, and making changes to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and poisonous chemicals. Snow emergencies continue today in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul and many suburbs after a major winter storm moved through Minnesota, dumping almost a foot of snow on some areas. There has been at least one death attributed to the storm. A man was struck by a snow plow in downtown Minneapolis.

Skies today, sunny to partly cloudy. Some snow could develop redevelop in the southwest late this afternoon, highs from around zero in the far northwest to the upper teens in the far southeast. This is Minnesota Public Radio News.

GARY EICHTEN: All right. Thanks, Steven. It's six minutes past 12 o'clock, final day of the fund drive here on Minnesota Public Radio News. And, boy, what a great response. 43 people contributing right now, getting their name on the line, saying, in essence, hey, I listen, and so I'm gonna support the station. I'll do what I can. I can't contribute a lot, but I can-- you know, I'll contribute what I can. I'll do what I can. I'm interested in picking up a copy of Bill Holmes' book, $10 a month contribution. Maybe I want the radio bookmark, 12.50. Maybe I can't afford any of that and just want to make a contribution of 25, 30, 40 bucks one time.

Maybe I can do a lot more-- make a Leadership Circle contribution-- $100. But anyway, 43 people are doing what they can. We sure hope you will do the same on this last day of the drive. 404 more people will be right on track. That's a lot of contributions in an hour, but I think we'll be able to do it.

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GARY EICHTEN: And welcome back to Midday on Minnesota Public Radio News. I'm Gary Eichten, and this hour we are remembering one of Minnesota's most acclaimed poets and essayists, Bill Holm, who died on Wednesday. He was 65 years old when he passed away.

As you heard last hour, when Garrison heard the news, he wrote, among other things, Bill Holm was a great man. And unlike most great men, he really looked like one. six-foot-eight, big frame, big, white beard, and a shock of white hair, a booming voice. So he loomed over me like a prophet and a preacher, which is what he was.

Bill Holm was a writer, to be sure. He wrote several books and won several awards during his lifetime. He was also a musician. Bill Holm was a man known for his love of Minnesota and his love of his Icelandic heritage. Both were major themes in his eight books, ranging from Boxelder Bug Variations to his most recent work, Windows of Brimnes-- an American in Iceland. And we begin our tribute to Bill Holm this hour with this story from Minnesota Public Radio's Marianne Combs.

MARIANNE COMBS: Bill Holm was born on a farm just north of Minneota, Minnesota, in 1943. That birthplace came to define him as a writer and a person. Holm traveled the world, including a teaching stint in China and regular visits to Iceland, the land of his forefathers. But he always returned to Minnesota, as he explains here in an interview from last year with Minnesota Public Radio.

BILL HOLM: The further away from Minnesota that I got, the more I realized that my material as a writer-- not just material, but the way in which I saw the world and the lens through which I observed America, the world, and my life-- was somehow had something to do with this funny, little town where I was born.

MARIANNE COMBS: Holm frequently appeared on A Prairie Home Companion and other stage performances. With his big frame, snow-white hair, ruddy cheeks, and hearty laugh, he looked like a wry, disheveled Santa Claus. Fellow writer and farm boy Jim Heynen was a longtime friend of Bill Holm. He says Holm was not only larger than life. He was a champion for the little guy, especially underappreciated authors.

JIM HEYNEN: I'm thinking of how he would walk into a bookstore and pick a book off the bookshelf and address everybody in the bookstore about how they should buy that book. [LAUGHS] I mean, he would just enter a scene, and it would be transformed.

MARIANNE COMBS: Heynen says Holm may have died early at 65 but lived more in those years than someone twice his age. He did everything in a grand way, whether he was speaking, eating, or playing the piano. Heynen quotes Holm's two-line poem from Boxelder Bug Variations titled "How They Die."

JIM HEYNEN: And, of course, it's speaking of boxelder bugs, but I like to think that this would hold true for Bill. They dry up, turn into light. And I think his light is gonna go on shining for a long time for people who bother to pick up his books and start reading. And I think it's what's on the page is gonna lead them into the significance of his mind and his heart-- his very generous heart.

MARIANNE COMBS: Most of Holm's poems and essays were published by Milkweed Editions. Publisher Daniel Slager says he was particularly drawn to Holm's more political essays, which he says in some ways resemble the writings of Mark Twain.

DANIEL SLAGER: Constantly vigilant defense of little people, powerless people and a constant suspicion of power and its workings, but never excessively earnest. Always infused with humor, with good humor, and with real love and respect for people from all walks of life.

MARIANNE COMBS: Slager says Holm even blogged the Republican National Convention last September. According to Slager, Holm felt it was important for a poet who could write beautiful lyrics to also be actively engaged with contemporary issues. In an appearance on Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning in 2004, Holm expressed his frustration with the Bush administration.

BILL HOLM: How much we need a sense of regret, not a sense of triumph or a sense of justification or a sense of virtue, but a sense of regret-- a sense of having made mistakes, a sense of wrong turnings, a sense of modesty in the face of-- in the face of history and of the face of human beings.

MARIANNE COMBS: Holm won the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award this past year. The award recognizes artists who've made long-standing commitments to the arts and to Minnesota. Vickie Benson is the director of the arts program at the McKnight Foundation which presented the award to Holm. They hosted a dinner in his honor, which he requested to be held at a little, Chinese restaurant known for its authentic food.

VICKIE BENSON: Bill insisted that we serve Icelandic vodka to the guests, and so he could make wonderful toasts throughout the evening. And we did, and I will always remember it, because Bill was in his element. He was so happy. He was reading from many of his books of poetry to us. And he asked his Icelandic friend to read, and he asked a friend from China to read. And it was really an evening that showed who Bill was.

MARIANNE COMBS: Benson says Holm called himself a curmudgeon but always with a huge belly laugh. She says Holm was passionate about life and wanted other people to be as passionate about it as he was. Like Heynen, Benson finds it most fitting to remember Holm by quoting him.

VICKIE BENSON: For it is life we want. We want the world, the whole, beautiful world alive, and we alive in it. That is the actual god we long for and seek. Yet we have already found it if we open our senses, our whole bodies, thus our souls. That is why I have written and intend to continue until someone among you takes up the happy work of keeping the chain letter of the soul, moving along into whatever future will come.

MARIANNE COMBS: Bill Holm made his final trip home on Wednesday night, flying back from Arizona. He collapsed from heart trouble shortly after getting off the plane. He leaves behind Marcie Brekken, his wife and partner of 30 years. He was 65. Marianne Combs, Minnesota Public Radio News.


GARY EICHTEN: Pretty darn good piano player, too. He was-- that's Bill Holm when he was on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, playing with the PHC house band. Bill Holm passed away Wednesday, age of 65, a real character in the best sense of that word.

If you would like a copy of Bill's book-- we'll have more from Bill, by the way. We'll hear from him himself, talking some excerpts from some of his appearances. Just a couple of minutes, we'll get to that. Meantime, if you'd like a copy of Bill's book, The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth, $10 a month contribution on this last day of our fund drive. And Stephanie Curtis, 379 to go to the goal.

VICKIE BENSON: I think we do it.

GARY EICHTEN: Think we can do it?

VICKIE BENSON: I think we can do it. I'm actually quite optimistic, Gary.


VICKIE BENSON: We are trying to-- yeah, I mean, in the next 45 minutes, we want to hear from 378 new members, renewing members, or members making an additional contribution. You can just go to our website,, to do that or give us a call at 1-900-227-2811.

I wanna read something from a member here who wrote in. This is why she contributed. She says, with the dwindling of our daily newspapers, it is even more important to our democracy that we take very, very good care of public radio and support it with generous, long-term financial commitments. That's from Mary McLeod.

Thanks so much for your contribution, Mary, and also for passing along those sentiments to help explain to others why you became a member. And maybe it will prompt somebody who's never been a member of Minnesota Public Radio before, but has been listening, maybe listening to Gary Eichten in the past year covering the politicals, the political scene. We had the historic presidential election and the wonderful coverage that we've had both from our team locally, our economics and business team covering the downturn, and the coverage that we bring you from National Public Radio and Marketplace. Those are both made possible because people just like you become members of Minnesota Public Radio.

Now, we have built this station, this service, over 42 years this way. Some-- 42 years ago, we came up with this crazy idea that we would go on the radio, and we'd say, well, you can listen to us anytime you want, but what we really want you to do is send us money, too, and listen in also. And that first person who took the plunge-- I don't know who they were-- the first person who wasn't related to anyone at the station, that's who I really wanna give a shout-out, the first person who was just listening and only knew these people through the radio. Whoever you were, that was an amazing thing to do, and that was the first step to building this network that brings you the coverage that you rely on every day.

So in honor of that first person who did that, in honor of Mary McLeod and her contribution and her sentiments, you know, taking care of the service that you rely on, go to and make a contribution or give us a call at 1-800--227-2811.

GARY EICHTEN: 367 to go to the goal by 1 o'clock this afternoon. This is the last go round here on our Midday program, last go round on our fund drive. We're not gonna be here Monday, and we sure hope that you will get your contribution in now while we're on the air during this last day. is the web address, or 1-800-227=2911.

Why should you give the radio station any money? Because you listen to the station, and because that's how we pay for the programs.


GARY EICHTEN: Pretty basic deal. $10 a month contribution. We'd love to send out to you a copy of Bill Holm's The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth. Stephanie, I wanted to share with you a comment from Hannah Kittleson, who renewed her contribution to Minnesota Public Radio in honor of Bill Holm.

She said, I'd like to make this contribution in honor and memory of Bill Holm, whose sage and uncommonly beautiful voice has been quieted in this world. He was a great friend, filling our hearts with singular joy and wisdom, and will be sorely missed. Wherever he is now, I hope he is next to a roaring fire, looking out over prairie or fjord, surrounded by books and laughter and the music of a well-loved piano. Deep peace to you, Bill.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Oh, what a wonderful tribute. And that man deserves these wonderful tributes. We're gonna be hearing Bill's actual voice coming up. We've got some pieces that he did, some recordings that he did, for Minnesota Public Radio. And he was a great writer, a wonderful writer. You can get one of his books about small-town America, The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth, for $10 a month. But Bill also was blessed with his fantastic voice that matched his writing ability, and so we'll be hearing from Bill soon.

Whatever your reason for contributing to Minnesota Public Radio-- maybe it's wonderful speeches and wonderful pieces like we're gonna hear from Bill Holm, maybe it's just the newscast that you know you can rely on, Maybe it's the speeches you hear on Midday-- we need you to contribute right now. Damian from Shakopee says that he contributed because NPR keeps him up-to-date with local and world news. And Greg and Rose in Cold Spring, Minnesota, say the days would be lonely without NPR.


STEPHANIE CURTIS: So thanks for your contribution. Thanks for renewing your membership. And if you have never been a member of Minnesota Public Radio, and you've been-- you're still listening to the member drive, it means you're seriously addicted at this point. So please go to and become a member right now.

GARY EICHTEN: We really do need your support. I know a lot of you have been meaning to make a contribution. You've heard us on the air, and you say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


GARY EICHTEN: I'll do that.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: That's the kind of person I am. [LAUGHS]

GARY EICHTEN: And I understand. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

GARY EICHTEN: But you just haven't gotten to it. Well, this is the last day to get to it. You know, here's the thing. We sure as heck don't want to be on the air tomorrow. But it's so important that we make the goals, the overall goals, that, if necessary, we will be back tomorrow. We weren't gonna be on Midday. Of course, Midday isn't on the air tomorrow. But we'll be here to talk with you.

But here's-- and here's the thing. You know, the temptation, again, is to blow it off and say, that's enough. No más, we've been on long enough.


GARY EICHTEN: But there's still $316,000 to raise to get to the final goal, and that buys so much great public radio that you would like to listen to and we'd like to do. So that's what this is all about when all is said and done. That's why it's important to make that goal, so we can do those programs., 1-800-227-2811. There are 33 of your fellow listeners contributing even as we speak. Already 95 have been added to the tally, hoping to hear, needing to hear, from another 349 folks.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Yeah, so go to the website right now or give us a call. Anna in Burnsville, Minnesota, said that she became a new member-- thank you so much for becoming a new member, Anna-- because MPR opens her mind to many possibilities. You know, whatever your reason is, you know, maybe it's on the weekends you enjoy laughing with the Car Talk guys. Maybe it's because you enjoy call-in programs, and you like the opportunity to be able to reach out to politicians that we have on the air and ask a question. Maybe it's because you rely on the National Public Radio shows, morning edition, all things considered, when you're driving to and from work or driving the kids around.

Whatever your reason or whenever you listen, it doesn't matter what time it is. It only matters that you are listening. So please become a member right now and do your part., 1-800-227-2811.

And whatever feels right to you. Like, Gary and I are not saying it needs to be $10 a month, it needs to be 12.50 a month. If you want to become a Leadership Circle member, $100 a month, great. If you want to just throw in an extra 20 bucks and, you know, like an additional contribution, that's wonderful, too. We need to hear from-- how many more? 343 in the next about 40 minutes.

GARY EICHTEN: 343 to go to the goal. Add your name to the list. or 1-800-227-2811. This hour, we're remembering Bill Holm, Minnesota's acclaimed writer and essayist who died this week, 65 years of age. We're gonna hear from Bill. While we're listening to Bill, though, please keep the contributions coming in.

A little background, though, before we get started with this next recording. Bill Holm, you should know, was born on a farm just outside the small, southwestern Minnesota town of Minneota. He continued to live much of his life in Minnesota, closely identified with the community. No doubt about it. He taught literature for nearly 30 years at Southwest Minnesota State university. And then during the Summers, he often traveled to a second home, a small fishing village in northern Iceland, the home of his ancestors.

Bill Holm was nationally known for his distinctly Minnesota writing. He wrote many poems, many books, including Boxelder Bug Variations and his most recent, Windows of Bimnes-- an American in Iceland. For the remainder of this hour, we remember Bill Holm by listening back to some excerpts from some of his public appearances.

First up, in 2007, Bill Holm spoke about Windows of Brimnes as part of the Talk of the Stacks series at the Minneapolis Public Library. He began by reading a poem that he wrote sitting on the northern coast of Iceland.

BILL HOLM: So I come here to this spare place in the summer and sometimes in the winter. I like Iceland in the winter, too, when it's spareness is magnified by snow and darkness. After a while, the United States is simply too much-- too much religion and not enough god. Too much news and not enough wisdom. I said that in the days before the newspapers started doing their magic.

Too many weapons of mass destruction, or for that matter, of private destruction. Why search so far away when they live here right under our noses? Too much entertainment and not enough beauty.

Too much electricity and not enough light. Too much lumber and not enough forest. Not enough-- too many books and not enough readers. Too much real estate and not enough Earth.

Too many runners and not enough strollers. Too many freeways. Too many cars. Too many malls. Too many prisons. Too much security. But not enough civility.

Too many humans but not enough Eagles. And the worst excess of all, too many wars. Too much misery and brutality reflected as much in our own eyes as in those of our enemies.

So I come here to this spare place. A little thinning and pruning is a good anodyne for the soul. We see more clearly when the noise is less, the objects fewer.

When Americans ask me to describe my little house, I tell them, not entirely disingenuously, that it is a series of magical windows with a few simple boards to hold them up, to protect your head from rain while you stare out at the sea.


One of the interesting things in Hofsos, and there's a whole chapter on it in here, is the genealogy business. I've already run into a few cousins in this house tonight. I grew up in a place in Minneota where I was surrounded by cousins. It was all a bunch of people who had emigrated from Iceland settled together and even interbred.


The smart ones, of course, married Belgians or Irishmen or--


My parents, you know, couldn't find anybody else, so they married each other-- Icelanders.


But one of the worldwide habits at the moment, not only among icelanders, is searching for relatives, doing genealogical stuff. Norwegians do it. Poles do it. Brits do it. Scots do it. Everybody is looking for where their height, their ancestry came from.

Why? I mean, for a long time in America, we didn't care very much about that. Why has it suddenly become a kind of hobby again? I think it's partly because we have gotten too big, too crowded, too noisy, and we feel living on 1568 2,489th Avenue, you know. 56314-1935.


We begin to feel in need of a little human connection to the planet. So the [INAUDIBLE] sort of entrepreneur in the town set up a museum, and I describe it in genealogy center where people can come and bring what information they have and find their relatives. And, of course, they have computers. It's kind of wonderful.

Somebody will come in from Canada or from North Dakota, and they'll come in and they'll say, well, I don't really know very much about this, but my dad always said he was from a farm in Thingeyri. They can't pronounce the words. Thingeyri, [? Saw, ?] [? Sloan. ?] Thingeyri, [INAUDIBLE] yes.

The only thing I can do in Icelandic is pronounce Icelandic names. It's an almost impossible language. My mother and father both spoke it, and my mother was particularly good. And I took her to Iceland when she was in her 60s, and she loved speaking Icelandic. You know, she had a few immigrant words, but she got to sort of put on the dog and have long conversations. And people would compliment her on her grammar and her accent, though she'd never been in Iceland.

We went out to a little museum outside Reykjavik, a folk museum where they had old houses and buildings and stuff from the old days in Iceland. And we'd go out there. And [? Yona ?] comes in, and she sees this little five-year-old girl dressed in a little Icelandic búningar, you know, the little Icelandic folk outfit.

She says [ICELANDIC SPEECH] to my mother, and my mother responds. And the two of them were having this long conversation. She says, well, aren't you cute? What a lovely búningar. And she says, yes, my Ama made it for me. And she says, and I wear it, you know, on Saturdays.

And my mother said, oh, you speak such beautiful Icelandic. And they have a little conversation. And then we walk on a bit. And my mother takes my arm, and she said, listen to that little girl. Perfect Icelandic. Perfect. And she's only five years old.


And I said, what the hell else would she speak?


This is her country. She lives here. And my mother, who was not to be disabused-- she was a real Icelander. You can never disagree with them. They're always right, and they always get the last word. So she says, well, no, but you have to be much more intelligent to speak Icelandic.


To which I looked at her and said, is that why I seemed unable to learn it under any circumstances? I have given it a try a little bit, and I don't think I tell this story in this book. But my friend, Wincey, who is referred to often in this book, half American and half icelandic, she's a teacher of grammar in English among other things.

But I was trying to learn Icelandic grammar, and I went through a grammar book. And don't. You will need a stiff drink afterwards.


Everything is declined in Icelandic, and in order to ask for one of something in, you have to know the gender. You have to decline it fully. And I counted the ways, you know, when you go into a store, when you're using the word, one, there are-- I found 48 possibilities of declining the word, one. So I said to Wincey, I said, god, there's 48 chances of making a mistake. And she says, that's not true. You always exaggerate.


I said, how the hell did I exaggerate? She said, well, one of them is right. Only 47 are wrong.


This is about the immigration center. I had to be taught to pronounce these names. But people who have lost the pronunciation of their own ancestors, they've got these little, brittle yellow pieces of paper and old photographs and this stuff. And they come in, hoping to find some connections to somebody else on the planet, not to bomb them, not to intimidate them, not to improve them, not to make money off of them, not to get land from them, but to get coffee, maybe.

This is a little poem I wrote about a photographic exhibition. It's called Silent Flashes. In this room, a mausoleum of emigrant faces embalmed in browntone for over a century. Try pronouncing their names-- Sumarlidi, [INAUDIBLE] Sturlungar, [INAUDIBLE]

The grandchildren give up, mumble a few consonants. These faces, once flesh, sweat in their itchy suits and whalebone corsets. No weather like this damp heat before they boarded their boats west.

Now, all flesh gone, names, too. Nothing left but brown images lit by silent flashes. The squeezed bulb in the photographer's hand. Such mustaches. Such intense, pale eyes. Such piles of Norse hair.

[? InIndrivi, ?] Arngrimur, Adelberg, Ragnhildur. Here's a map with pins where they settled that weave a spider web over the whole continent. And these are the towns where the Icelanders settled. Gimli, Muskoka, Shawano, Gardar, Mozart-- or, as they say in Saskatchewan, Mozert--


Mozert, Minneora, Markerville, Spanish Fork. A few here, a few there. Never many. Never enough so the neighbors could ever get their tongues around [INAUDIBLE]



GARY EICHTEN: Easy for him to say. Bill Holm, Minnesota's acclaimed poet and essayist speaking in 2007 as part of the Talk of the Stacks series at the Minneapolis Public library. Bill died on Wednesday. He was 65 years old, and we are paying our tributes this hour. We'll hear more from Bill Holm in just a couple of minutes.

Meantime, we'd like to remind you that this is the last day of our fund drive. If you're interested in picking up a copy of one of Bill's many great books, The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on earth, that's available on this last day of the drive at the $10 a month level. But the important thing, whatever level works for you, that you make a contribution here to Minnesota Public Radio. Get your name added to the list of really great people who have been contributing today.

1,778 folks have made contributions today, Stephanie. Amazing. Hoping still to hear from 290 more in the next 25 minutes. Woo.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: That's right. Oh, We're trying to keep this on track to wrap up the member drive this evening. And to do that, we've been told, you folks on Midday need to round up another 290 of your listeners and convince them to become new members or renew their membership or make an additional contribution. So that's what we're hoping you will do.

Barbara Wignis became a new member. She's from Carver, Minnesota. Thank you very much, Barbara. And Deborah in White Bear Lake-- actually not in White Bear Lake. She's from White Bear Lake, but she's been living abroad, and she's been listening, um, I guess, streaming online to keep up-to-date on what's going on in Minnesota and the United States.

So thank you, Deborah, for becoming a member-- well, renewing your membership, even though you're living abroad right now. Whatever your reason for becoming a member of Minnesota Public Radio-- maybe it's you get to be kept up-to-date on the economy or kept up-to-date on international news, or you just like hearing people like Bill Holm-- great writers and great thinkers and great speakers-- you find that all in Minnesota Public Radio. So become a member right now.

Maybe $10 a month, get Bill Holm's book. That'd be fantastic. Or, you know, set whatever level you'd like. Maybe you can do the Leadership Circle-- $100 a month. Any and all will be welcome. Thank you so much, everyone who's been contributing so far. But we need to hear from another 289 people in the next, like, 24 minutes.

GARY EICHTEN: Every single dollar that's contributed this afternoon will move us a dollar closer to wrapping up the fund drive on a successful note. We'll be on the air probably into the early evening tonight, trying to make what still appears to be an impossible goal. But you never know. You just don't know.

The listeners-- that would be you folks-- have responded so magnificently today already. We have a real chance to make this goal, not to be on the air tomorrow. We're certainly not gonna be here Monday, because this is it. Last day.

289 more people to go here on Midday. 289 of you. If you're anywhere out there, if you can renew your contribution or make a new contribution, you know, if you're a first time person, additional contributions. 17 people contributing right now. That is great. But let's hope we can get to 27 people and 37 people contributing at 1-800-227-2811 or

Still about-- and again, to give you an idea of the stakes here. Still $309,000 to the goal, and that is, again, would pay for so much great radio. And we're sure hoping-- we can't afford to just wave that off and leave that on the table. So do what you can. We're not expecting you will write us a check for $309,000, though it would be a welcome one if you did, as long as it didn't bounce.


GARY EICHTEN: [LAUGHS] No, no, you just contribute what works for you. or 1-800-227-2811.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Brenda Myron in Inver Grove Heights is a new member, and she says MPR covers topics I may not otherwise have time to read about, and it's such a-- and in a way that is so interesting, understandable, current, and with great-- presented with great expertise. Thank you. Thank you, Brenda.

And then Leif Starbuck is a brand new member also. He's from Minneapolis, and he says, I don't have cable TV at home, so I miss a lot of news coverage. Also, I love to learn. MPR News gives this to me in spades. This is such quality programming.

So thank you very much for becoming new members, both of you.

GARY EICHTEN: Three folks who have been members and are going to stay on. They're happy campers.


GARY EICHTEN: William in Saint Paul says, I'm grateful for MPR. There are times when I hear something in the car that is so unique and interesting that I mutter to myself, wow, what a gift that was. Marie and Robert in Minnetonka say they're contributing, because the station makes them proud of Minnesota. And Jean in Minneapolis says, being informed of local, national, international news through the information I receive from MPR, I feel like I can share and participate in intelligent conversation. Rock on, MPR.


GARY EICHTEN: She says, gee, thank you all for your contributions. You can join those good folks. 22 people on the line right now. And, again, hoping to hear from-- needing to hear from 32, 42 more of you if we're gonna make this goal. We just have 21 minutes left to go. or 1-800-227-2811.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Just think of how you've used Minnesota Public Radio News in the past year. We've had the historic presidential election. We had the amazing coverage from the two conventions, the amazing coverage of those debates, the leading up to election day. Plus, we've been also-- we've got a team here, a business and economics unit team, and Marketplace and National Public Radio's team all covering what first started off as a housing crisis, then turned into a downturn and now is the recession.

And now we're covering-- doing an amazing job covering both on the local level and the national level the recovery process and how Obama's administration is dealing with it, how Pawlenty's administration is dealing with it, and how people just like you and the businesses that you work for are handling it here in Minnesota. If that kind of coverage is important to you, and you rely on it being there, it's made possible by folks just like you, other listeners who became members. So we need you to do your part right now.

It's a really tough economic time out there. We realize this. We've had some companies that have had to pull back some of their support from Minnesota Public Radio. And we're turning to members like you, as we always do, the bedrock of our system here, to contribute just a little bit more. Go to or give us a call at 1-800-227-2811 and make a contribution or renew your membership.

GARY EICHTEN: You decide how much. But if you contribute at the $10 a month's level, say, you can pick up a copy of Bill Holm's The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth, one of his-- one of the eight great books that he wrote. That's available as a special thank you gift.

Maybe you'd like to join us at the $12.50 per month level. That radio bookmark is available. How does that work? It's a little device, a little flash drive type thing, that you have on your keychain, carrry-on, or your pocket, whatever. You hear something on the radio, you push the button, one of the two buttons on this device. And I don't know how it works. Anyway, it knows what you're doing.


GARY EICHTEN: Push the button, and then you take it over to your computer at your leisure, whenever you have time. You plug it into your computer. Your computer knows what it did, and it does-- knows what you did. And it takes-- bvvvvp-- all of a sudden, you end up back--


- --listening to exactly what you were listening to again. You get to hear it again, or pick up the story where it left off. It's an amazing device, getting rave reviews, available at the $12.50 per month level. And please don't quote me. It's much too technical, the information I've just provided.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Gary was not the inventor of this device, obviously.


STEPHANIE CURTIS: But he has used it. We've seen it work, and it works.

GARY EICHTEN: 270 to go.

- is our website, or you can do it the old fashioned way. 1-800-227-2811. We're looking for people, especially I want to reach out to people who are Midday listeners who have never been a member of Minnesota Public Radio before. Maybe you've been listening for a couple of years. You've put it off until now. Now's the time to do it.

18 more minutes to show your support, particularly for the Midday crew. We're looking for another 265 people, so go to the website right now,, or call 1-800-227-2811.

GARY EICHTEN: More now from Bill Holm. But in the meantime, we only have here 19-- oh, I'm sorry-- 18 minutes left to go on Midday, and we still have a long way to go. So please keep the phones ringing and better yet, keep the mice clicking. Get your contribution in here at, 1-800-227-2811. New members, renewals, additional contributions-- 264 to go to the goal.

What a great show of support so far. Let's keep it going. We're remembering Bill Holm this hour-- a great writer, essayist who died at the age of 65.

Bill won lots of awards for his work. Along with two Minnesota Book Awards, he was a Bush Arts fellow, a Fulbright lecturer. Just last may, he won the prestigious McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. That award is given to artists who could pursue their work away from Minnesota but often stay close, adding to the state's culture.

Now, Bill Holm traveled widely, and he spent his summers in Iceland, where he and his wife bought an old fisherman's cottage near the sea. But he was forever tied to the southwestern Minnesota prairie. He lived in the small town of Minneota, graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter.

For better or worse, he once wrote, you belong in a place and grow out of its black soil like a corn stalk. Bill Holm wrote with a unique and insightful look at modern life. In our final excerpt from his public appearances, Bill was here in our studios, speaking with then NPR host Chris Lydon about a poem that Bill had written about 9/11, about the workers in the windows on the World Cafe.

BILL HOLM: When the 9/11 tragedy happened, I couldn't really feel it, you know, when they say 3,000 people dead, any more than after World War II when somebody said that six million Jews had died in the concentration camps. You can't see 6 million people. And I couldn't feel that in abstractions, but I could feel it when I heard an interview on NPR with the manager of the restaurant who said, well, he had been home that morning.

CHRIS LYDON: I remember that radio piece.

BILL HOLM: And I wrote this. And after-- and suddenly I thought not of him but of the people who were killed there, mostly immigrants. And in any restaurant in New York, it must be mostly people who don't have green cards or who are working on the sly and are here from somewhere-- my kind of folks, in other words-- working up there. And they had no idea what was going on, and all of a sudden, somebody trying to kill them. And they're just trying to, you know, peel the shrimp.

An early morning cafe. 107 stories into the air, the windows on the World Cafe served pate and poached salmon to diners staring over Manhattan. But early this September morning, the sommelier and maitre d' were still asleep in their faraway flats. Only the sous chef and the banquet staff had arrived to peel the shrimp, trim the artichokes, and wash the leaves of the escarole.

Simple work with your mates in a quiet, early morning cafe is a pleasure. Jokes, mild complaining, a hummed tune or two when suddenly a berserk machine decides to murder a building with fire. Like a badly shot elephant, the 106 stories holding up your peeling knife and lettuce dryer wobbled and shook a little while. But when flames melted the bones, it all tumbled down on top of itself in a gray heap-- shrimp, artichokes, escarole, 50,000 bottles of elegant wine, and you yourself, unless you leapt out one of the windows of the world to finish with imaginary wings the flight to the city of angels.

Humans so riddled with hate, they turned from men to bombs, smashed the girders under your cafe, though they'd never met you, to murder you for the glory of god, with your apron still smeared with shrimp guts. It was always thus. Try to kill an abstraction by murdering a building from the air.

But all you kill is Bob and Edna and Solly and Rodrigo and [INAUDIBLE] A building is only a set of artificial legs to hold up human beings in the air in an airplane, only a sheet of folded paper. But 50,000 bottles of good wine and 100 pounds of fresh gulf shrimp and Bob and Edna and all the rest, that is something real.

If you think you've bagged the one truth, and that truth wants final sacrifice, then you've stepped outside the human race. And your plane will not land in heaven, wherever you think it might be. Heaven is an early morning cafe wherever you are.

And I think, you know, all those-- bombing never works. That's one of the interesting things that they've discovered in the history of warfare, is that bombing or blowing things up is finally not effective. It doesn't do what you think it's going to do. It just kills human beings.

And the idea of killing people that you've never met, I mean, like all of us, both you and I can imagine killing people we've met. [LAUGHS]


BILL HOLM: The thought crosses one's mind now and again, but the idea of simply killing some people just because they happen to be in a place is absolute madness. I mean, there's something inhuman about it. You've stepped outside the sphere of what I like to think of as human sanity.

CHRIS LYDON: Would you read something entirely different, but it's connected in a fashion? I mean, there are so many things I'd love you to read. There's the poem Thistles but also a poem called Lemon Pie.

BILL HOLM: Mike Doleman, the guy who's black piano I inherited, he was a-- he liked Minneota. He enjoyed it. He was a Seattle guy and a big city guy and a doctor. But he enjoyed sort of slumming it out in Minneota.


BILL HOLM: And he had just come down with his disease to the point where he knew it was-- the curtains were drawing. And he came for Thanksgiving. This is called Lemon Pie. To my old friend, Doleman.

For your last Thanksgiving in Minneota, I invited half the universe. Holm's single-handed feed the hungry, stuff the lonesome stranger with turkey and giblets and pie. Already death had winked at you once or twice from behind its shadowy curtain. My neighbors pitched in with gravy, bread, and labor.

Thursday morning, Tom brought lemon pies, steaming acid-sweet smell, majestic meringue, soaring peaks of beaten egg white. On the table, cooling, you smelled them, found a fork. And a mischievous, sweet-toothed boy were set to violate a hot meringue, when I walked in and said in a sharp voice, get the hell out of there. Those hot pies will be ruined if you dig into them.

So what? You shot me an insulted look. They're only pies. Eat 'em yourself. You skulked out into the morning. Toward night, your snit evaporated, and you resumed your usual grace and humor.

By then, I'd grown my guilty conscience, remembering that you lived under sentence of impending death. I should have kept my mouth shut, one nagging inner voice said to another, watched you put an entire hot lemon pie into your gullet.

What a hard business, being human. All we know and remember-- shadows-- every simple act. The next thanksgiving, you lay close to death. All food loathsome, indigestible, kept half alive with cans of glutinous.

And sure, we made a lemon pie to tempt you into one more small pleasure. But you impaled the pie with a fork, left it standing upright in the meringue, and turned away, lost to all joy. We are who we are until we aren't anything any more but air.

I carry that steaming pie to my own grave, offering it to you over and over again. Atonement. I hear your wry voice saying, as it said so often, eat dessert first. Life is short and uncertain.

GARY EICHTEN: Bill Holm, Minnesota's own, unique poet and essayist who died on Wednesday, 65 years old. Visitation for Bill will be held Saturday, March 7, in Minneota at the Rake Camp Horvath funeral home. That's March 7, visitation, 4:00 to 8:00 PM. Then the funeral service will be held on Sunday, March 8, at Saint Paul's Lutheran in Minneota.

Lots more about Bill Holm on our website, By the way, if you would like a copy of Bill Holm's The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth, special thank you gift being offered today on Midday. Another eight minutes, nine minutes or so. $10 a month contribution. We'll be glad to send that out to you.

Whatever works for you. And as we come to the end of our fund drive here, this the last nine minutes here on Midday-- we won't be here Monday-- get your contribution in at or 1-800-227-2811. Stephanie, 211 folks, and we'll be at our goal. We have 37 on the line now, so, you know.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: It can be done.

GARY EICHTEN: --170 people or so, thereabouts, in the next seven minutes. Yeah, it can be-- it's possible.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: So we are looking for new members. If you've been listening to Minnesota Public Radio, maybe for the first time in the past couple of months, or even you've been listening for a couple of years now, and you've just never become a member, now's a great time to become a member to support Midday and the great programming you hear every Monday through Friday in this show.

Maybe it's been a while since you renewed your membership, and you need to renew it. Or maybe you just want to throw in an additional contribution. We'll take any and all. That's great. Just go to, or give us a call at 1-800-227-2811.


Christopher Malone and Michelle Malone, our new members from Rushford, and one of them wrote-- I don't know which one-- I enjoy the music and information provided each day on my way home from work. I hope we reach our goal.


STEPHANIE CURTIS: I love that. They took that on their own. It's their own. It's their goal, too. So thank you to the Malone's of Rushford for becoming new members of Minnesota Public Radio. And we are hoping that you will do so in kind.

Maybe you want to contribute because of Midday. Maybe you like the rush-hour programs-- Morning Edition, All Things Considered. Maybe you like Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Splendid Table. Whatever your reason, and there are so many different reasons. And I saw somebody who liked the religious coverage, somebody else who likes a science coverage.


STEPHANIE CURTIS: There's so much available, so many reasons to become a member. So just do it right now. or 1-800-227-2811. And we need to hear from 210 people still in the next, huh, six and a half minutes.

GARY EICHTEN: Absolutely. Well, it really is your goal, because this is your radio station. This is public radio built by people like yourself who, listen, make their contributions, sometimes real big contributions. More often, real little contributions. Most often, right in between, say $10 a month. or 1-800-227-2811. We're getting to last call time here. We've got 6.5 minutes left on Midday. 205 people away from the goal, our Midday goal. And we hope by the end of this evening, we'll be at our overall goal.

And it's important that we make that goal, because that's how we pay for the programs. Still, $298,000 at stake. So you can see how every single dollar really makes all the difference here. As we work away, you'll say, well, holy cow, that's way too much money. Well, we started the day with about $560,000 to earn.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: It seem completely insurmountable.



GARY EICHTEN: --or 1-800-227-2811. Jennifer and Stan and Winona will be getting a copy of Bill Holm's The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth, as will Susan in Oslo, also receiving a copy of Bill Holm's book. $10 a month contribution.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: In case you're wondering what that book is about, Bill had left his small town that he grew up in, then moved back thinking that he would have been a failure if he had died in Minnesota. And then he came back, and he realized, wait a second. There is so much here. I don't need to be out on a coast. I don't need to be in a big city to be-- I don't need to be abroad. I don't need to be anyplace else but this small town in Minnesota that I was born in to really learn a lot about life and from the people that surround me.

He brought just it's a wonderful appreciation of living in a small town and what you can learn there. You can get that for $10 a month, one of Bill Holm's great books. That's at if you use our website, or you can call 1-800-227-2811.

I read a quote a couple of weeks ago that was like-- it was like, it is a mistake to do nothing when all you can do is a small part--


STEPHANIE CURTIS: --because all you can do is a small part. And it really is. You may be thinking, like, you know, they really need people who can afford more, who can give the big contributions.

GARY EICHTEN: The big buck guys.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: The big buck guys. That's who's gonna to do it. But really, it's not. That's the wonderful thing about Minnesota Public Radio. It's been built by real people, real listeners, just like you. And that's how we became this incredible network of stations across the state.

And that's how, you know, we do our part to support National Public Radio, and all the other stations all around the country who help support National Public Radio because they're supported by their members. You may seem insignificant or that it's like your contribution isn't that big of a deal, but it's because people like you have done their part.

So even if you can do a-- if all-- it's a mistake to do nothing because all you can do is a small part. You should do your part, even if it's small. Go to, or call 1-800-227-2811.

GARY EICHTEN: Controversy rages even as we come--


GARY EICHTEN: --come to the last day of the fund drive at the end of Midday. Icon, the Australian shepherd, who lives in Cedar, Minnesota is-- well, it's hard to know.


GARY EICHTEN: A gift membership. Icon is a member now, and it says here, Icon is especially concerned that Ansel the wonder dog who visits with Caden Hunter, the veterinarian--

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Uh-huh. I know Ansel.

GARY EICHTEN: Ansel continue-- Icon is concerned that Ansel continues his many appearances on the Midday show. [BARKS]


GARY EICHTEN: Now it's unclear whether Icon wants Ansel on or doesn't want Ansel on. But anyway--


GARY EICHTEN: --thanks for becoming a gift member. Hey, we've only got about three minutes left to go here. Three minutes. Last call. Those of you who enjoy the Midday program, I sure hope you'll get signed up here in the next three minutes. How do you do that?

So quickly, go to minnesotapublicradio.organd and type quickly. or you can call us. 1-800-227-2811. Bill Holm playing in the background as we wrap up what has been a successful, difficult fund drive.

191 contributors to go here on Midday. Come on, folks.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Calling all cats, calling all dogs. Mary [? Dompkey, ?] Scandia, Minnesota, she's contributing because-- in support-- in honor of her cat, Tater Tot. So thank you to Tater Tot. Donna, Gail, and Jeremy in Deephaven are contributing on behalf of Willow Gail, their yellow lab.

So if you want to make a contribution for your dog or your cat, please do. But I also wanted to say, from River Falls, Wisconsin, Patrice, and the Ellises in Cold Spring, and David Carlson in Ramsey, Minnesota have all made contributions in honor of the late, great Bill Holm. So thank you for those contributions.

At, or you can call 1-800-227-2811. How are we doing, Gary?

GARY EICHTEN: We have 188 to go. 33 people are contributing, though. So we're getting very, very, very close to making our Midday goal. How about you? You can push us over the top here . 1-800-227-2811.

The countdown is literally underway. We've got about a minute and a half to go. Last call. Midday listeners, you've been wonderful all week. How about one last surge if you have not gotten a contribution in? or 1-800-227-2911.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: Particularly people who are fans of the great Gary Eichten who is here every Monday through Friday. Somebody has to say it, Gary. Every Monday through Friday, 11:00 to 1:00, bringing you great columns, asking the hard questions, making sure he and his team makes sure the best speeches get on, the most important news gets on the air.

So when you tune in during your lunch hour, you have-- they bring you the world, folks. So if you like Gary Eichten, contribute right now in support of Gary Eichten and his crew here at Midday. or 1-800-227-2811.

GARY EICHTEN: You will be able to get right through. The need is a real one. We'll keep you posted through the afternoon, of course. Thanks to everybody who's contributed here during Midday.

We're close-- about 184 to go, 34 people contributing. Add your name to that distinguished list of people who understand how public radio works. Depends on you, frankly. or 1-800-227-2811. Stephanie Curtis, Thanks for coming in today.

STEPHANIE CURTIS: It's wonderful to be here.

GARY EICHTEN: Always great to have the heavy in the studio. 1-800-227-2811,

VOICEOVER: Programming is supported by Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, where pediatric specialists discover new ways to help children with disabilities, gain greater independence and live more joy-filled lives. You can become a part of the cure by visiting cure--


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