Marvin Bell: The Willow Springs Interview

Poetry doesn’t easily reveal itself,” Marvin Bell said during his opening remarks at the International Camouflage Conference at the University of Northern Iowa in 2006. “At first glance, it looks and sounds like the utilitarian language we use every day, but it isn’t. It can be the lie that tells the truth. It can follow an indirect path that reveals more than a straight line would… In other words, to see it, one sometimes has to take a second look. And, indeed, one can be looking directly at it and not see it until it moves.”

Bell is the author of twenty-three books of poetry and essays, the most recent of which, Vertigo: The Living Dead Man, was released by Copper Canyon Press in 2011.

Born in New York City in 1937, Bell grew up on rural Long Island. He holds a bachelor’s from Alfred University, a master’s from the University of Chicago, and a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa. He taught for many years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop,and served two terms as the state of Iowa’s first Poet Laureate. He has also taught at Goddard College, the University of Hawaii, the University of Washington, Wichita State University, and Portland State University.

Bell’s many honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia.

“Art is a way of life, not a career,” Marvin Bell wrote in “32 Statements About Writing Poetry.” Willow Springs met with him at his home in Port Townsend, Washington, where he talked about teaching, poetry, the personal sublime, and political engagement.

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