Bell was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and raised in Center Moriches, Long Island. He earned his bachelor's degree from Alfred University, his master's degree from the University of Chicago, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.
He is the author of more than 16 books of poetry. Notable books of poetry including The Book of the Dead Man (Copper Canyon, 1994) and Ardor: The Book of the Dead Man, Vol. 2. (Copper Canyon, 1997)
Bell taught for many years at the Iowa Writers' Workshop as the Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters. He currently is an emeritus faculty member. Over a long career Bell has held numerous visiting lectureships at universities, including Goddard College, Oregon State University, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Washington. He currently serves on the faculty of the Masters in Fine Arts in writing program at Pacific University in Oregon.
Bell has written poems protesting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and given readings for Poets Against War.
He currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington and Iowa City.
Bell's 2nd bookA Probable Volume of Dreams, was awarded the prestigious Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets in 1969. Other honors for his work include Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and Fullbright appointments in Yugoslavia and Australia. In 2000 Bell was appointed as the first Poet Laureate for the state of Iowa.
- American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature
- Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships
- Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia
- Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters at the University of Iowa
- Iowa's first Poet Laureate
- National Book Award Finalist
- Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets
- Two Poems. Iowa City, IA: Hundred Pound Press, 1965.
- Poems for Nathan and Saul (pamphlet). Mount Vernon, IA: Hillside Press, 1966.
- Things We Dreamt We Died For. Iowa City, IA: Stone Wall Press, 1966.
- A Probable Volume of Dreams. New York: Atheneum, 1969.
- Woo Havoc (pamphlet). Somerville, MA: Barn Dream Press, 1971.
- Anthropological. Amherst, NY: Slow Loris Press, 1971.
- The Escape into You: A sequence. New York: Atheneum, 1971.
- Residue of Song. New York: Atheneum, 1974.
- Cards. Tucson, AZ: Grilled Flowers Press, 1977.
- Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See. New York: Atheneum, 1977.
- These Green-Going-to-Yellow. New York: Atheneum, 1981.
- Segues: A correspondence in poetry (with William Stafford). Boston: Godine, 1983.
- Drawn by Stones, by Earth, by Things That Have Been in the Fire. New York: Atheneum, 1984.
- New and Selected Poems. New York: Atheneum, 1987.
- Annie-Over (with William Stafford). Rexburg, ID: Honeybrook Press, 1988.
- Iris of Creation. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1990.
- The Book of the Dead Man. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1994.
- Ardor: The book of the dead man: Volume 2. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1997.
- Poetry for a Midsummer's Night: In the spirit of William Shakespeare's 'A midsummer night's dream'. Seattle, WA: Seventy-fourth Street Productions, 1997.
- Wednesday: Selected poems, 1966-1997. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland: Salmon Publishing, 1998.
- Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2000.
- Walking in the Footsteps of the Dead Man. La Crosse, WI: Sutton Hoo Press, 2000.
- Rampant: Poems. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2004.
- Mars Being Red. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2007.
- 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book (contributorO. Trinity University Press, 2009.
- Whiteout (with photos by Nathan Lyons). Revere, PA: Lodima, 2011.
- Vertigo: The living dead man poems. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2011.
- Old Snow Just Melting: Essays and interviews. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1983.
- Introduction to Earl S. Braggs, Hat Dancer Blue. Tallahasee, FL: Anhinga, 1992.
- Preface to Whose Woods These Are: A history of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 1926-1990 (edited by David H. Bain & Mary S. Duffy). Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1993.
- A Primer about the Flag (illustrated by Chris Raschka). Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011.
- A Marvin Bell Reader: Selected poetry and prose. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press / Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994.
|Poet Laureate of Iowa|
| Succeeded by|
- "Dead Man Camouflage"
- Marvin Bell at Poetry Out Loud (2 poems)
- Marvin Bell profile and 12 poems at the Academy of American Poets.
- Marvin Bell b. 1937 at the Poetry Foundation.
- Marvin Bell at PoemHunter (7 poems0
- Audio / video
- Marvin Bell's "Why Do You Stay Up So Late" with animation by Ernesto Lavandera
- Marvin Bell at YouTube
- Marvin Bell at Copper Canyon Press
- Marvin Bell at We Wanted to Be Writers
- "Willow Springs Interviews Marvin Bell"
- "The Poetry Kit Interviews Marvin Bell"
- An E-view with Marvin Bell at The Drunken Boat
- Robert Peake on Marvin Bell's "Wednesday"
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