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Friends, colleagues, students, and family reflect on the legacy of Iowa’s first Poet Laureate Marvin Bell

Feb 10, 2021
Marvin Bell

In a soft navy vest over a buttoned shirt, poet Marvin Bell read his poem, “To Dorothy” on a couch in front of his MacBook. A pair of dark rimmed glasses bobbed atop his round nose as he spoke to the screen in a softened but confident voice, reciting the words as he had many times before.

“You are not beautiful, exactly. You are beautiful, inexactly.”

The subject of Bell’s poem, his wife Dorothy Bell, stroked his arm and back just out of sight as Bell closed the reading — a three-hour Zoom his friend, International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, put together in his honor in November. More than 600 people from all over the world attended to share their favorite poems by Bell, so many that the host of the event, Prairie Lights Bookstore, had to upgrade its Zoom subscription to fit them all.