Saturday, July 16, 2011

I like Bill Holm

Look, if for some reason you want to read about Minnesota, bypass the Garrison Keillor rack at your local Waldenbooks. The poet Bill Holm was a more estimable chronicler of Minnesota life. I was going to write a lengthy post about him, but since I’m shite at criticism and don't really understand literature, I’ll just leave you with this thing he wrote about prairies and the personalities they nurture:

There are two eyes in the human head -- the eye of mystery and the eye of harsh truth -- the hidden and the open -- the woods eye and the prairie eye. The prairie eye looks for distance, clarity, and light; the woods eye for closeness, complexity, and darkness. The prairie eye looks for usefulness and plainness in art and architecture; the woods eye for the baroque and ornamental....Sherwood Anderson wrote his stories with a prairie eye, plain and awkward, told in the voice of a man almost embarrassed to be telling them…; Faulkner, whose endless complications of motive and language take the reader miles behind the simple facts of an event, sees the world with a woods eye. One eye is not superior to the other, but they are different. To some degree, like male and female, darkness and light, they exist in all human heads, but one or the other seems dominant. 
...Like a long symphony by Bruckner or Mahler, prairie unfolds gradually, reveals itself a mile at a time, and only when you finish crossing it do you have any idea of what you've seen. Americans don't like prairies as scenery or for national parks and preserves because they require patience and effort. We want instant gratification in scenic splendor as in most things, and simply will not look at them seriously. Prairies are to Rockies what Paradise Lost is to haiku. Milton is cumulative; so are prairies. Bored for days, you are suddenly struck by the magnitude of what has been working on you. It's something like knowing a woman for years before realizing that you are in love with her after all.

--From "Horizontal Grandeur," The Music of Failure.

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