Born in Hampshire in 1918, Martin Bell was the leading member of the 'lost generation' of English poets whose careers were interrupted by the Second World War. He was a prominent member of The Group during the fifties, and a major influence on younger poets like Peter Redgrove and Peter Porter.
His poetry reached a wide audience during the sixties through Penguin Modern Poets, and in 1967 he published his Collected Poems,1937-1966, his first and last book. Bell was also a champion and brilliant translator of French Surrealist poets. He died in poverty in Leeds in 1978.
Like other 'provincial' working-class contemporaries, Bell wrote fantastical, highly erudite, biting, belligerent poetry. And yet – as Philip Hobsbaum said – he also wrote 'some of the most delicate love poems of our time' as well as 'one of the major war poems in the language'.
A. Alvarez called him 'an emotional tightrope walker… He writes a rather bitter, tensely colloquial verse based, it seems, on a radical dislike for both himself and pretty much everything else.'
'The publication of Martin Bell's Collected Poems is as important a literary event as any not merely this year but in this decade.' – Anthony Burgess.
'Martin Bell is one of the major poets writing in English in the second half of the century.' – Peter Porter