Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell

GENRE
Poetry
AFFILIATION
Faculty
TIME IN IOWA CITY
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Place

Juan Philipe Herrera on studying with Marvin Bell


Location
Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

He refers to three of his instructors—Marvin Bell, Gerald Stern, and Jorie Graham—as “a triad of magnificence that I hugely learned from,” and says the Workshop gave him time to “focus on the page” and develop a new aesthetic, or “tool kit,” to complement the one he’d developed through years as an activist poet.

“When I walked out of there, I had this new tool kit that I didn’t have before,” he says. “When you put both tool kits together, for me, that was the greatest joy—it’s like you have two secret formulas all of a sudden.

Place

Marvin Bell and Donald Justice: Iowa Memorial Union


Location

So, I asked John Logan, what shall I do now? And he said, well, there’s something at the University of Iowa called the Writers’ Workshop. I will send a letter to the poet, who teaches there, Donald Justice, and you can go and be interviewed, and maybe you can do that. So, I took a bus — I thought, Iowa City?…That’s the wilds!…I’m not, I’m not going to drive out there — I took a bus and stayed at a hotel that doesn’t exist anymore, it was downtown. I met Donald Justice in the Iowa Memorial Union the next day, and we talked for a little while, and then … we went bowling! There used to be bowling alleys in the basement of the Union. I was accepted into the Workshop.


Bell, Marvin. “Interview,” The Writing University website

Audio

Marvin Bell reading, Live From Prairie Lights, Feb. 22, 2006


Location
Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City Iowa

Marvin Bell, an emeritus faculty member of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Iowa’s first Poet Laureate, reads his work. Bell says of his latest work

Some of these poems were written in the mornings at the First Avenue Java House and others at home very late at night. I recently founded the School of Prophetic Existentialism. It was an accident.

Audio

Marvin Bell reading, Live From Prairie Lights, Oct. 17, 2007


Location
Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City Iowa

Marvin Bell, emeritus professor of Poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Iowa’s first Poet Laureate, reads from his latest collection, Mars Being Red. Marvin Bell has been a leader in the Poets Against the War movement and his new book is both his most personal and his most political.

Audio

Marvin Bell, Rowena Torrevillas, James Galvin, Mark Levine, and Jorie Graham read the work of IWP participants, including Tomaž Salamun


Location
Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City Iowa

Poets Marvin Bell, Rowena Torrevillas, James Galvin, Mark Levine, and Jorie Graham read the work of IWP participants whose work has been published in previous issues of the Iowa Review.

Works Read: Marvin Bell reads the following poems: “It Happened There Was a Man Who Wanted to Be a Hunter” by Ai Qing. “Give Indonesia Back to Me” by Taufiq Ismail. “The Exercise” by Fernando Arbelaez.

Rowena Torrevillas reads the poem “Indian Summer” by Nicolae Breban.

James Galvin reads an excerpt from the short story “Tort’s Bitter Marriage” by Amos Tutuola.

Mark Levine reads the following poems: “Barbaric Poem” by Guillermo Sánchez. “Wound and Knife” by György Somlyó. “The Biographer” by Ágnes Gergely. “Last Passengers” by Sunil Gangopadhyay.

Jorie Graham reads the following poems: “To Have a Friend” by Tomaž Salamun, trans. by Robert Hass. “Souvenir of the Ancient World” by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, trans. by Mark Strand. “A Pity, We Were Such a Good Invention;” “We Did It;” “Rain on a Battlefield;” “Out of Three or Four in a Room” by Yehuda Amichai. “Foreign Domestic;” “A Lovely Finish” by Elizabeth Bishop.

David Hamilton reads “Understanding Poetry” by Stuart Friebert.

 

Place

Marvin Bell: First Ave Java House


Location
First Avenue Java House
1575 S. First Ave.

Some of these poems were written in the mornings at the First Avenue Java House and others at home very late at night. I recently founded the School of Prophetic Existentialism. It was an accident. 

– Marvin Bell, explaining his writing process during a reading at Prairie Lights, Feb. 22, 2006


Reading at Prairie Lights, Feb. 22, 2006, Audio

Place

Marvin Bell: Iowa Writers’ Workshop


Location
Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Marvin Bell taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for over 30 years, serving as the Flannery O’Connor Professor of Letters. Bell described the atmosphere of talented teachers:

A great many writers have come to Iowa City to read or teach. John Berryman taught here, Robert Lowell taught here, Karl Shapiro–he didn’t stay long. I think he may not have finished the semester. When I first came back from the Army, Don [Justice] had been away for a year and he had come back and couldn’t find a house, and he said he was going to leave. I was on a weekend pass from the Army to find a rental, so I found a house for him and one for us and then I went back to the Post.


Bell, Marvin. “Interview,” The Writing University website

Image

Marvin Bell: Literary Walk Plaque


Location
Marvin Bell: Literary Walk Plaque
Iowa Avenue, Iowa City, IA

From ‘Poem in Orange Tones’ in ‘A Marvin Bell Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose’ (Middlebury College Press/University Press of New England, 1994)

After receiving his master’s degree at the University of Chicago, Marvin Bell went on to complete his MFA and to create a lasting legacy at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Bell taught at the Writer’s Workshop for forty years as the Flannery O’Connor Professor of Letters and was elected as Iowa’s first Poet Laureate in 2000. He has published over 18 collections, as well as several books of letters and essays. Some of Bell’s former students include Marilyn Chin, Rita Dove, Norman Dubie, James Galvin, Jorie Graham, and James Tate. He currently lives in Iowa City and Port Townsend, Washington.