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Martin Bell Biography

(1918–78), Collected Poems: 1937–66, Penguin Modern Poets: 3, Martin Bell: Complete Poems

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais Biography to Michel Bibaud Biography

British poet, born in Southampton, where he was educated at the University. By profession he was a schoolteacher, and, latterly, an opera critic and lecturer. In 1964 he received the first of the Arts Council's Poetry Bursaries, and was Gregory Fellow of Poetry at Leeds University from 1967 to 1969. Bell's publishing history is unusual in that his Collected Poems: 1937–66 (1967) was the only independent collection he published in his lifetime; his experiences on active service during the Second World War had a disruptive effect on his development as a poet, with the result that he did not resume the serious practice of poetry until the mid-1950s. In 1962 his work appeared with poetry by George Barker and Charles Causley in Penguin Modern Poets: 3. Thematically and stylistically wide-ranging, Bell's writing recurrently draws upon his experiences as a soldier and a schoolteacher, which provide material for the wittily irreverent satires of patriotism and social convention in numerous poems. His ironically modulated tone often recalls the dandyism of Laforgue and other nineteenth-century French poets whose works he translated extensively. A senior member of the Group, his energetic and imaginative style was a major influence on the work of several other members; he is referred to in Peter Porter's introduction to Martin Bell: Complete Poems (1988) as ‘father and tone-setter of Group discussions’.

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