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Release: Feb. 9, 2001

Iowa Poet Laureate Bell to visit communities

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa Writers' Workshop faculty member Marvin Bell, the State of Iowa's first poet laureate, will visit high schools in Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and West Liberty, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, and the public library in West Liberty during February. Bell will make presentations as part of the UI Arts Share program's "Cultivating Creative Writing -- An Iowa Tradition," through a grant from the Iowa Arts Council.

Bell will be at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 14, East High School in Waterloo and UNI in Cedar Falls on Feb. 15, and West Liberty High School and the West Liberty Public Library on Feb. 26.

Free events, open to the public, will be a community reading at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Art Auditorium, UNI Kamerick Hall 111, and a reading by Bell at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26 in the West Liberty Public Library.

In the high-school events, Bell will promote literacy and writing, and some of the high-school students will read their poems for him. Iowa First Lady Christy Vilsack has been invited to participate in some of the events with Bell.

Bell, who has been called "a maverick" and "an insider who thinks like an outsider," is the author of 17 books of poetry and essays. Of Bell's newest collection Judith Kitchen says, "Bell has redefined poetry as it is practiced today." According to the Harvard Review, "It's tough to come away from ("Nightworks") not believing that Bell has the largest heart since Walt Whitman."

Bell has received the Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia.

"Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See" was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1977. In March 2000 Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack named Bell the state's first poet laureate.

The Flannery O'Conner Professor of Letters, Bell is a longtime member of the Writers' Workshop faculty. He has also taught at Goddard College and the Universities of Hawaii and Washington. His former students include Rita Dove, James Tate, Jorie Graham, John Irving and current workshop faculty member James Galvin.

Bell has been invited to read his poetry at the White House, the Guggenheim Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress. A graduate of the Writers' Workshop, he also holds a bachelor's degree from Alfred University and a master's degree from the University of Chicago.

The jumping-off point for "Cultivating Creative Writing -- An Iowa Tradition," is the status of the Writers' Workshop as the world's oldest and most influential creative writing degree program, which has helped the University of Iowa and Iowa City gain an international reputation as a Mecca for writers, and has made the name "Iowa" synonymous with writing. The residencies will aim to promote interest in creative writing and encourage life-long learning in the literary arts.

Funds provided by the Alliant Energy Foundation will supplement the Iowa Arts Council grant in implementing the "Cultivating Creative Writing" project.

The UI Arts Share program provides artistic resources from the Iowa Center for the Arts to schools and community organizations. The 2000 Arts Share roster includes more than 70 faculty and graduate students in music, theater, dance, the visual arts and creative writing.

For more information about the Arts Share program, call director Diane Kenney Handler at (319) 335-1618 or send an e-mail to <>.

A free Arts Share program guide including artist roster is available at the Arts Share office, 2077 Voxman Music Building, the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.