The poet and novelist Jaime Manrique writes:
"Walter Holland’s Reconstruction is an autobiographical depiction of the years when the poet and his family lived in Virginia, a society where Black people had to endure the dehumanizing legacy of Jim Crow. Nowadays, there are those who refer to the 1950s as the time when “America was great. ” Yes, great for white people, but unfair to the descendants of the enslaved, to all other people of color, and to those who were different—“the Others.”
Holland achieves a miracle in Reconstruction: his quaint, beautiful poems, filled with a yearning lyricism, capture, without anger, the lovely appearances of that world, where good manners required, among other things, to be complicit in the violent treatment of those who were considered inferiors.
These are affecting and surprising poems; Holland’s musicality lures us into entering a realm of gentility, of appearances, under which great crimes were being committed. Reconstruction makes me question my present life: to what injustices am I being complicit— just to hold on to my comfortable existence?"
–Jaime Manrique, author of My Night with Federico García Lorca
From the Press Release for the book on FLP:
This is a book of poetry for our American present. It speaks to the present conflicts over race and privilege. It is a work of complicated poetic reconciliation. Weaving both vivid lyric language into short narrative poems, Holland reconstructs a flawed yet nostalgic past. Uprooted northerners, Holland, his sisters, and his parents sought the bucolic charm and unfettered economic opportunity of 1950s Virginia.
But boyhood brought with it a complex emotional and psychological complicity with the perverse cultural mores and institutionalized racism of the south. White, privileged, and sexually conflicted, Holland, who was drawn to the arts, negotiated a world of natural beauty and solitary retreat. His mother struggled with depression. His father, a doctor, kept true to the stoic virtues of fifties masculinity. Middle-class and affluent, Holland went to ballroom lessons, piano lessons, lived in a home attended to by a maid, and grew into a society, on the one hand as an outsider—northern born, Catholic, liberally inclined, studying modern dance and performing in community theater—and on the other felt obliged upon to take a date to her debutante party, attend the cotillions, hunt on one occasion, and obediently comply with the rules of segregation.
Holland’s poems weave the rural landscape of Virginia and its distinct country local with the burgeoning arrival of suburbanization and corporate industrialization in the late fifties. He gives a sense of the swift transition from the old south to the New South. He layers his poems on top of the brutal remains of the Civil War, the daily evidence of the Jim Crowe south, the rotting foundations of tobacco shacks, segregated neighborhoods, and aged downtown businesses. He describes the prosperity of the sixties, a race riot at his high school, the institutionalization of his mother for shock-treatments, and the travel-hungry father who circles the globe.
Above all these are poems that will evoke the beauty of a remembered past and its many illusory and problematic realities.
Circuit is about the ever shifting rituals and celebrations of gay life, from the political to the personal and the personal to the universal. From the serene settings of Fire Island and the exuberant parties of Provincetown to the AIDS wards of New York City and the acceptance of mortality and the recognition of grief, Walter Holland’s poetry captures the complex lives of gay men, its dizzy exhilaration, its camp sensibility, as well as its hidden tragedies and human struggles.
"Walter Holland's poems posses the measured observation and piercing poignancy of Cavafy, but they are even more gripping. Whether he is writing about Fire Island's dance floors build on sand and the young men in transit on them, evoking the tar pit of grief and loss that was (and is) AIDS, or probing his own past and his own current love, Holland evinces a hard-eyed longing for connection and constancy. He writes with 'the hard grace/of age' in poems admirably committed to 'seeking providence and desire.' " — David Groff, Theory of Devolution
" ' The poet,' said Borges, 'like the blind, can see in the dark.' Walter Holland's quiet, meditative verses illuminate even the blackest aspects of our odd era with their clear, melancholy vision—arresting, consoling, and unforgettable." — Ian Young, Sex Magick
"Circuit is not a young man's book of poetry. Walter Holland has lived long and felt deeply and these poems make the difficult connections between pleasure and loss, nature and pain, men and absence. Holland is a survivor, and his poems deserve to survive long after this publication."
— David Bergman, Heroic Measures and Professor of English, Towson University
"Whether Walter Holland is witnessing the individual face of a pandemic or what he calls 'the opera of everyday objects,' this poet's lens is crystal clear, his language low-key and surgically precise, and the result is a well-worth-taking journey into a mind, time and places. Urban yet human, Circuit reminds me of the New York School poets of a half century ago: an admittedly personal collection of poetry. It rises to become a paradigm for an entire generation of gam men. A necessary book." — Felice Picano, Art and Sex in Greenwich Village
"There is very little poetry that embraces calm and comfort as its dominant moods, and very little gay poetry that seems not just to have weathered the storms, but to have weathered them entirely in tact. . . Holland’s major achievement here is to build a persona that is as unabashedly gay as it is charmingly decorous." — Jason Schneiderman, Lambda Literary
First published in 1996, Walter Holland’s debut novel is a moving testament to the power of friendship during even the worst of times. Beginning on a hot summer night in 1980, The March revolves around a circle of young gay men, and the many others their lives touch. Over time, each character changes in unexpected ways; lives and loves come together and fall apart as society itself is altered by the onslaught of AIDS.
“These quiet, reflective poems perform the difficult trick of casting a penetrating light on the melancholy path, a gentler light on the present. Walter Holland brings to the task gifts of language, insight, and a fine ear.”
- Edward Field, review of Transatlantic -
Transantlantic blends the temporality of travel, memory and place with the disjunctures of postmodern life. Be it images from the racially segregated American South, the haunting now baroque histories of Paris or Barcelona, or the urban tragedies of New York at the end of the 20th century, these meditative poems evoke the passionate landscapes of a life carefully observed. Crossing many borders and many sensibilities, the poems bear the imprint of the varied feelings, origins and fictions that give us passage through our world, the somewhat startling if not breathtaking destination that is desire.
"How can the same poet who writes with melancholy elegance about Paris (and even Proust's Paris) also give us the wrenching realism we find in poems about his middle-class childhood in segregated Virginia? Walter Holland is 'multicultural' in the widest sense. The volume concludes with a long sequence chronicling the phantasmagoria that New York gay life in the 1980s was, much as Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems captures the campy hilarity of New York int he 1950s. Add to all this some reflective poems about contemporary Spain and several about life as a gay couple and you have one of the most searching and original books of poetry to have appeared in the new millennium." — Alfred Corn
"Part epic, part bildungsroman, this latter-day Journal of the Plague Years details its central characters' coming of age as gay men and simultaneously coming to terms far too soon with mortality." — Lambda Book Report
A Journal of the Plague Years: Poems 1979 – 1992 is Walter Holland’s first collection of poetry. Much of the book is drawn from Holland’s work while enrolled in The City College of New York MA Program in Creative Writing. These sensitive poems reflect upon the AIDS Crisis and Holland’s sense of loss and mourning for many of his friends who died in the plague. Holland bears witness to the ever-growing madness of an upturned world, be it on the summer streets of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a hospital room overlooking Second Avenue, the shores of Fire Island Pines, the bars of the Castro, or the greater world beyond. His poems speak to “a constancy/ history can no longer promise” as an entire generation vanishes. Raconteur, poet, sonneteer, Holland captures the growing silence of a city and its inhabitants faced with mounting deaths and interrupted lives. In these well-crafted poems Holland tells us the tragic stories of youth cut short and possibilities unfulfilled. With a sharp eye, and the voice of restraint, Holland describes the horror of the AIDS years and the greater awakening of love and empowerment they brought to the gay community. Haunting and memorable, this is a fine debut collection.
"There is also the poetry of the raconteur, the storyteller: Walter Holland’s in A Journal of the Plague Years: Poems 1979-1992 (Magic City Press). The passage through time, the drift of days, the death of friends, the moment of the place—these are New York resident Holland’s canvas, on which he sketches vivid, ear-catching images of his life, of these times." — Richard Labonte, The Advocate