Marvin Bell has been called "an insider who thinks like an outsider," and his writing has been called "ambitious without pretension."
Judith Kitchen, writing for The Georgia Review: "These new books by Marvin Bell are sending poetry into new and original territory. Bell has redefined poetry as it is being practiced today." On his two latest collections, Ms. Kitchen wrote: "I believe that Marvin Bell’s Dead Man poems should close any anthology of the 20th century, and open any anthology of this new century’s work. They change the game."
Bell was for many years Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His former students cover a wide range of aesthetics and include Denis Johnson, Juan Felipe Herrera, Marilyn Chin, Larry Levis, Rita Dove, Norman Dubie, Michael Burkard, Albert Goldbarth, Joy Harjo, Mark Jarman, David St. John, Thomas Lux, Patricia Hampl, Kimiko Hahn, Stephen Kuusisto and James Tate.
He served two terms as the state of Iowa's first Poet Laureate. He has collaborated with composers, musicians, dancers and other writers, and is the originator of a form known as the "Dead Man" poem. His 23 books include Vertigo: The Living Dead Man Poems and Whiteout, a collaboration with photographer Nathan Lyons — both released in 2011. His literary honors include awards from the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Poetry Review, Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia.