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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 3, 2004

Poet Bell Reads From New Collection Feb. 17 On WSUI 'Live From Prairie Lights'

Long-time University of Iowa Writer's Workshop faculty member Marvin Bell, who will retire at the end of this academic year, will read from his new poetry collection, "Rampant," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

"'Write a poem that doesn't sound like a poem,' Marvin Bell once quipped to a group of students," critic Richard Jackson recalled in a review of "Rampant." "Good advice, to be sure, for it suggests how every good poem is an innovation, an experiment, and it also suggests how every good poem is subversive of the current views of the writer as well as the reader. In this, his best book, a major contribution to our poetry, he is continually remaking himself and the world all the better to imagine them both."

The second half of the new book, "Journal of the Posthumous Present," can be seen as an extension beyond Bell's famed "Dead Man" poems. Critic Judith Kitchen called it "one of the most important poems of the last 20 years."

Bell says he hopes the admiring critics are correct: "It's an attractive idea -- that each book might be a step ahead -- and I hope they're right. I tend to start over after each collection. Am I smarter, more skillful, or wiser in geezerhood? The writer is the last one to know. But do I think so? Yes, I do."

Bell, who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Writers' Workshop, will retire as Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters, and he recently completed two terms as Iowa's first Poet Laureate.

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."

He also leads an annual Urban Teachers Workshop for America SCORES, has read and lectured widely, has collaborated with composers, musicians and dancers, and has taught a master class for the Rainier Writing Workshop.

Among his 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."

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.

His "Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See" was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1977.

His former students include Rita Dove, James Tate, Sandra Cisneros, John Irving, Denis Johnson, Joy Harjo, Larry Levis, Patricia Hampl, David St. John. 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.

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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,