Poet Marvin Bell came to Iowa City in 1961 to be a “graduate student bum in the Writers’ Workshop.” After three years in the program, he spent two years in the army, returning to the University of Iowa in 1965 to begin what would become a forty-year career as a teacher in the Workshop.
In this On the Fly interview, recorded in 2010 in the poet’s Iowa City home, Bell discusses the philosophic and socio-political aspects of his work, his influences—including poets and teachers John Logan and Donald Justice—and why he has always advised students to write a poem that at least one person in the room will hate. He argues, “The person who gets the most out of a poem is the person who writes it.”
Bell was Iowa’s first Poet Laureate. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has garnered awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and The American Poetry Review.