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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

'Dead Man Poems' author to speak at Syracuse University

Marvin Bell created the Dead Man form in American poetry

March 23, 2012, by Judy Holmes

Marvin Bell
Marvin Bell
Live as if you were already dead--Zen admonition

Celebrated poet Marvin Bell will read from his latest work, Vertigo: The Living Dead Man Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2011) at 7 p.m. Monday, April 2 in Syracuse University’s Hall of Languages, Room 107. 

A second event, “Crazy Apple: Q&A about poetry with Stephen Kuusisto and Marvin Bell,” will happen at noon, Tuesday, April 3 in SU’s Hinds Hall, Room 347.  Bring a bag lunch; drinks will be provided.

Both events are free and open to the public. Parking is available in SU’s paid lots. The events are presented by the Renée Crown University Honors Program, which is administered by SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. 

Vertigo is Bell’s 23rd book of poetry and his fourth collection of “dead man poems,” a form he invented and about which author and critic Judith Kitchen has written: “Bell has redefined poetry as it is being practiced today.” 

According to the publisher, “Bell created his everyman—a character unlike any other in American poetry—in the late 1980s and has continued to improvise on the life of the Dead Man. The Dead Man returns in Vertigo, Bell's latest vibrant and provocative collection. The Dead Man's is an overarching consciousness that stands witness to violence and political turmoil, celebrates daily joys, and challenges the scope of human knowledge.” 

Poet Robert Peake hails Vertigo as Bell’s most political collection of poems to date. “This Dead Man lives in ‘a time of troop surges and redactions, leaks and fire starters, a time of bush-league government.’ This is a decidedly American, cunningly political, and fiercely unnerving collection. Philosophy mixes easily with quantum physics, Zen with zeitgeist, held together by deft syntax, archetypal images, and the musical underpinnings of natural speech.”

Bell taught for 40 years for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, retiring in 2005 as the Flannery O’Connor Professor of Letters. He served two terms as Iowa’s first Poet Laureate and has been highly recognized for his work, including awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and The American Poetry Review; fellowships from the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts; and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia.

Bell published his first collection of poems, Things We Dreamt We Died For (Stone Wall Press) in 1966, following two years in the U.S. Army. His book A Probable Volume of Dreams (Atheneum, 1969) was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; and Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See (1977) was a finalist for the National Book Award. Bell holds a B.A. from Alfred University, a M.A. from the University of Chicago and a M.F.A. from the University of Iowa.