Bathanti named N.C. poet laureate
Award-winning poet, professor and literacy advocate Joseph Bathanti, of Vilas, has been named North Carolina’s poet laureate by Gov. Bev Perdue.
“Joseph Bathanti is an award-winning poet and novelist with a robust commitment to social causes,” Perdue said. “He first came to North Carolina to work in the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program and has taught writing workshops in prisons for 35 years. As North Carolina’s new poet laureate, he plans to work with veterans to share their stories through poetry — a valuable and generous project.”
North Carolina’s seventh poet laureate, Bathanti will be installed during a public celebration scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20, at 4:30 p.m. at the State Capitol. The event is free. He succeeds Cathy Smith Bowers, the state's poet laureate from 2010 to June 30, 2012.
“Joseph Bathanti brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities, geographies and traditions to his new role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature,” said Department of Cultural Resources secretary Linda A. Carlisle. “His appointment as poet laureate is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”
Bathanti is a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University, where he is also director of Writing in the Field and writer-in-residence in the university's Watauga Global Community. He has taught writing workshops in prisons for more than three decades and is former chairman of the N.C. Writers’ Network Prison project.
“I can’t imagine a better place in the United States to be a writer than North Carolina,” Bathanti said. “There is no place richer in literature and no place that has celebrated writers in quite the same way as our state does.”
Bathanti’s books of poetry include “This Metal,” “Restoring Sacred Art,” “Land of Amnesia,” “Anson County,” “The Feast of All Saints” and “Communion Partners.”
He has published two novels, “Coventry” and “East Liberty,” along with a book of short stories, “The High Heart.”
“His award-winning body of work is a powerful mix of old forms and new forms, which has gained national and international recognition, and which adds up to a rich interpretation of modern American life,” said Randall Kenan, associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and chairman of the poet laureate selection committee. “Also a prose writer of great accomplishment, Joseph’s novels and short stories and plays resonate with North Carolina's long tradition of literary bounty and excellence.”
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Bathanti arrived in North Carolina in 1976 as a member of VISTA, a national service program designed to fight poverty, and he never left the state. Assigned to work in Huntersville Prison in Mecklenburg County, he met fellow volunteer and future wife Joan Carey on his first day of training. They have been married for 35 years.
For four years starting in 1985, Bathanti shared his talents as a poet and writer in rural Anson, Union and McDowell counties through the N.C. Visiting Artist Program, a collaboration between the N.C. Arts Council and the N.C. Community College System, running from 1971 to 1995, which brought a diverse range of artists to small towns and rural communities across the state. He wrote a non-fiction book about the program, “They Changed the State: The Legacy of North Carolina’s Visiting Artists 1971-1995” on the 25th anniversary of the program.
“The North Carolina poet laureate is one of the state’s longest running and most important ways that we celebrate and share our state literary heritage with citizens,” said Wayne Martin, executive director of the N.C. Arts Council. “Joseph’s work is accessible because he writes about topics that touch all of us: family, home and personal experiences.
“His idea to work with veterans puts him in good stead to be poet laureate for North Carolina.”
Bathanti will be installed as North Carolina’s poet laureate in a ceremony at the State Capitol, located at 1 Edenton Street in downtown Raleigh, Thursday, Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m. The free event is open to the public.