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University of Iowa News Release

April 21, 2005

UI Marks Retirement Of Poet Marvin Bell In April 29 Event

The University of Iowa career of Writers' Workshop faculty poet Marvin Bell will be celebrated in a free event at 8 p.m. Friday, April 29 in the Richey Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union. The public is invited to join in the celebration.

Speakers will include UI faculty members James Galvin, David Hamilton, Cole Swensen and Dean Young, as well as poet James McKean, a workshop graduate who teaches at Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids. Music settings of Bell's poetry will be performed, as well as dance featuring the Travelers Dance Company.

Bell, who attended the Writers' Workshop in the early 1960s, will retire as Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters at the end of this semester after 40 years on the faculty, and he recently completed two terms as Iowa's first Poet Laureate.

In addition to Galvin and McKean, Bell's hundreds of former students include Pulitzer Prize winners Rita Dove and James Tate, and prominent poets and fiction writers including Sandra Cisneros, John Irving, Lee Blessing, Denis Johnson, Joy Harjo, Larry Levis, Patricia Hampl, Mary Swander, Marilyn Chin, Norman Dubie, Marcus McPeek Villatoro and David St. John.

As Poetry Daily put it, he "has been part of the conversation for a half century, including the words of and about his signature creation, the 'Dead Man.'" And an article in the Georgia Review asserted, "Marvin Bell enlarges our understanding of what poetry can do."

Among Bell's many other poetry collections are "Iris of Creation," "The Book of the Dead Man," "Ardor (The Book of the Dead Man, Vol. 2)" and "Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000." His most recent volume is "Rampant," which ends with a long poem that critic Judith Kitchen called "one of the most important poems of the last 20 years."

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. He has been invited to read his poetry at the White House, the Guggenheim Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress. And his "Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See" was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1977.

In addition to his many years as a faculty member of the Writers' Workshop faculty, he has taught at Goddard College and the Universities of Hawaii and Washington. Bell has served both as a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writing Fellow and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, which involve teaching at other campuses, and he has also taught in Prague and Paris.

Travelers Dance Company, based in Iowa City, performed "Breathing Between the Lines," a production of works set to Bell's poetry, in 2002, with support from the Iowa Arts Council, and in 2003 the company performed one of those works, "Today, Tibet," at the 10th Annual Dancing Poetry Festival in San Francisco.

Travelers Dance was founded by three UI alumni -- dance graduates Angie Hayes and Judith Moessner and multimedia graduate Mark McCusker -- in collaboration with Iowa City visual artist Gene Anderson. Moessner is now the marketing director for the UI Division of Performing Arts.

"Angie Hayes and Travelers have enlarged my poems," Bell said. "Their staging of my Tibet poem is all-encompassing and beautiful. They make me wish I could dance."

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

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