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Marvin Bell is at the peak of his formidable powers. Long recognized as one of Americas liveliest poetic in-novators, he has said in a recent interview, I want to do something beyond convention, beyond accepted levels of skill, beyond the expected, beyond the predictable, beyond the wholly welcome.
Nightworks is truly beyond the usual fare, and critics have praised it as a major event, long overdue, and essential. As the definitive collection of Bells 40-year career, it combines new poems with choice selections from all of his previous books, including the now-infamous voice of the Dead Man:
I am the poet of skulls without why or wherefore. I didnt ask to be this or that, one way or another, just a young man of words. Words that grew in sandy soil, words that fit scrub trees and beach grass. Sentenced to work alone where there is often no one to talk to. The poetry of skulls demands complicity of the reader, that the reader put words in the skulls mouth. The reader must put water and beer in the mouth, and music in the ears, and fan the air for aromas to enter the nostrils. The reader must take these lost heads to heart from Skulls
Marvin Bells career has been substantial [and] Nightworks reminds us just how distinctive his voice has been all alonghow prophetic, how candid, how rigorously philosophical. He enlarges our understanding of what poetry can do. The Georgia Review
Marvin Bell has taught for nearly 40 years at the Iowa Writers Workshop. He is the first and current Poet Laureate of Iowa.