Returning to the Old Country: Bill Holm’s Quest for an Icelandic-American Identity
Keywords: Icelandic-American history, Midwestern literature, cultural heritage, return migration, American literature, Icelandic Sagas
AbstractThis article focuses on the Icelandic-American identity of Bill Holm (1943–2009), American poet and essayist. It explores the twofold identity of an American writer, who was a grandson and a great-grandson of immigrants in the Upper Midwest. Writing from his background in rural and small-town Minnesota, and from his return trips to Iceland, Bill Holm developed what historian Jon Gjerde (1953–2008) referred to as a “complementary identity.” Holm was especially interested in the farmer-poet and worker-intellectual, both in his local Icelandic-American community and in Iceland. As an Icelandic-American writer, Holm had the benefit of using his knowledge of, and his extensive reading of, both Icelandic and American literature in his own experiences and his writing. Both Snorri Sturluson and Walt Whitman providedhim with a useful past.