Marvin Bell is at the peak of his formidable powers. Long recognized as one of America’s 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 Bell’s 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 didn’t 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
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 skull’s 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…
"Marvin Bell’s career has been substantial [and] Nightworks reminds us just how distinctive his voice has been all along—how 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.