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Release: Sept. 20, 2002


“Live from Prairie Lights,” the series of free readings broadcast on University of Iowa public radio station WSUI, AM 910, will present Iowa Poet Laureate Marvin Bell, a faculty member in the UI Writers’ Workshop at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30. The reading, hosted by Julie Englander in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City, can be heard on the internet at .

That week the free series will also feature:

-- award-winning BBC journalist David Edmunds reading from “Wittgenstein’s Poker,” which he co-authored with John Eidinow, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1;

-- controversial Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, in Shambaugh Auditorium of the UI Main Library; and

-- poets Taha Muhammad Ali and Aharon Shabtai with translator Peter Cole at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3.

Bell, who is a graduate of the Writers’ Workshop, is the author of nearly 20 books of poetry and essays, including “Ardor: The Book of the Dead Man, Vol. 2,” “The Book of the Dead Man,” “Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See,” an Irish collection of poems entitled “Wednesday,” and “Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000.”

His work appears in hundreds of anthologies of poetry and essays. His former students include Rita Dove, James Tate, Jorie Graham, John Irving, James Galvin, Norman Dubie, David St. John, Marcus McPeek Villatoro, Joy Harjo, Patricia Hampel, Mary Swander, Lee Blessing and Marilyn Chin.

His numerous awards include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature (1994), senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Alfred University (1986), the American Poetry Review Prize (1982). He was a National Book Award Finalist in 1977 for “Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See.”

Bell has been invited to read his poetry at the White House, the Guggenheim Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Alfred University and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in addition to his Master of Fine Arts degree from the UI. He is now in his second term as Iowa’s Poet Laureate.

A Publishers Weekly review described the origin of Edmunds and Eidinow’s “Wittgenstein’s Poker”: “In October 1946, philosopher Karl Popper arrived at Cambridge to lecture at a seminar hosted by his legendary colleague Ludwig Wittgenstein. It did not go well: the men began arguing, and eventually, Wittgenstein began waving a fire poker toward Popper.

“It lasted scarcely 10 minutes, yet the debate has turned into perhaps modern philosophy’s most contentious encounter, largely because none of the eyewitnesses could agree on what happened. Did Wittgenstein physically threaten Popper with the poker? Did Popper lie about it afterward? BBC journalists Edmonds and Eidinow use the controversy as a springboard to probe the whys and whats of these two great thinkers, weaving biography, journalism and philosophy to produce one of the year’s most entertaining and intellectually rich books.”

Finkelstein, who teaches political theory at the City College of New York, is the author of books including “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering,” “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict” and “A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth.”

Translator Peter Cole will appear with two of the Middle Eastern poets whole work he has made available to readers of English: Taha Muhammad Ali and Aharon Shabtai.

Ali is one of the leading poets of contemporary Palestinian literature, and his work is represented in English by “Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story,” The proprietor of a souvenir shop in Nazareth, Ali is known for free-verse poems that reflects the everyday life of Palestinian Arabs.

Shabtai, who lives in Tel Aviv, is the foremost Hebrew translator of Greek drama, winning the Prime Minister’s Prize for Translation in 1993, and he is the author of numerous collections of poetry.

C.K. Williams wrote of Cole’s translation, “Love & Selected Poems”: “In his fusions of the sensual and the spiritual, the ordinary and the exalted, the sexual in the suffering psyche and the intelligent consciousness searching and spinning through history, myth and layers of language, Shabtai is one of the most exciting poets writing anywhere, and certainly the most audacious. The poems have a wonderful almost vertiginous energy, an enormous erudition, and a startling, finally inspiring candor.”

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