Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Muse: North Carolina's Poet Laureate

. . . Without poetry, without all the arts, how would we as a species
ever know how we very deeply and honestly feel about things? Would
we know how to feel? Art reorders and disciplines our instincts
in profoundly human and humane ways. . . .
~ Joseph Bathanti in Q&A with North Carolina Arts Council

The new Poet Laureate of North Carolina is Joseph Bathanti, appointed August 30, 2012. He began his two-year term officially on September 20, when he was installed as the state's seventh state poet. Bathanti succeeds Cathy Smith Bowers, whose term ended June 30, 2012.

According to NC Arts Everyday, during his tenure as Poet Laureate, Bathanti plans to work with veterans to help them share their stories through poetry.

Information about the Poet Laureate position is found in my post about Bowers.

* * * * *

. . . more than anything, my practice is to gaze
out my window and write about what I see. . . .
~ Joseph Bathanti in Interview with Town Creek Poetry

Poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, and short story and nonfiction writer Joseph Bathanti has published six collections of poetry: This Metal (Press 53, 2012; St. Andrews College Press, 1996), a National Book Award nominee and winner of the North Carolina Poetry Council's Oscar Arnold Young AwardRestoring Sacred Art (Star Cloud Press, 2010), for which Bathanti received the Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association; Land of Amnesia (Press 53, 2009), Anson County (Parkway Publishers, 2005; Williams & Simpson, 1989), Feast of All Saints (Nightshade Press, 1994), and Communion Partners (Briarpatch Press, 1986), his first book of poetry.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Bathanti went to North Carolina in 1976 as a VISTA volunteer; he has conducted workshops in state prisons for more than three decades. It was in North Carolina, he told an interviewer, that he "first found a community of kind people who were not simply interested in my credentials as a writer, but as a person." The state, he points out, has "generously sustained me as a writer, and allowed me to prosper in that role."

In his poems, Bathanti works and reworks themes of religion, memory, identity, loss, and time and place, especially as they are reflected in the subjects of home, family, friendship, growing up in a working class neighborhood, and  life in the South. His work is rooted in personal experiences. As he told Town Creek Poetry, "I'm obsessed with both past and family" and "[have] found that my central store of material lay in autobiography."

Bathanti is direct and accessible, his imagery unfussy, his voice assured:

[. . .]
Beneath a tired red wig,
lily tat on her jugular,
she rhymes in toothless hip-hop.

The best relationship she'd had
in years was her pimp;
she liked not thinking for herself.
[. . . .]
~ from "Huron Valley"

They bump into Him shopping in Bloomfield.
It's how many years? He's skin and bone.
The hair. The beard. Some kind of radical.
But still He shows respect, [. . . .]
~ from "Jesus Meets the Women"

Mind-blown from maximum jolts
at Central Prison and outlying county gun camps,

shackled State felons, in felon brown,
huddle in the bullpen,

a caged room of church pews, awaiting process
into Honor Grade units across North Carolina.
[. . . .]
~ from "Robert Lowell"

Poems by Bathanti have been published widely, in such literary periodicals as Alaska Quarterly Review, Appalachian JournalCalifornia Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Cincinnati Poetry Review, Cold Mountain ReviewNorth Dakota QuarterlyPlatte Valley ReviewPoetry InternationalShenandoahTexas Review, and Wallace Stevens Journal. He is anthologized in the Lost Horse Press anthology I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights.

In addition to a Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry fellowship and fellowships in poetry and fiction from the North Carolina Arts Council, Bathanti has been awarded a Donald Murray Prize (2010) from the National Council of Teachers of English, a Samuel Talmadge Ragan Award (1995) for his contributions to fine arts, a Linda Flowers prize from the North Carolina Humanities Council (2002), a Sherwood Anderson Award (2002), and a Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize (2007). For short stories, he has won a Spokane Prize (2006); he has been awarded a Novello Literary Award (2006) for his novel Coventry. In September of this year, he was given the 2012 Ragan-Rubin Award for Literary Achievement from the North Carolina English Teachers Association. Bathanti has been selected to receive the 2013 Mary Frances Hobson Prize.

Bathanti, former head of the North Carolina Writers' Network Prison Project, teaches creative writing at Appalachian State University.


All Poetry Excerpts © Joseph Bathanti

Announcement of Joseph Bathanti's Appointment

Joseph Bathanti Poems Online: "Cletis Pratt" at Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize Winner); "The Woods Behind the Tenant Shack", "Face of Fire", and "Your Leaving", All at North Carolina Arts Council; "The Vilas Flood", "How to Bury a Dog", "The Haybaler", "The Spirit Homeless", "House-Hunting at Four Thousand Feet", and "Running", All at My Laureate's Lasso; "Advising", "Your Leaving", "Washing Her Ruined Boy", "Burn Season", and "Knocked", All  on YouTube; "Robert Lowell" at Shenandoah; "Wheeling" and "Epigenesis" at Asheville Poetry Review; "Restoring Sacred Art" at City Net; "The Wall" at The Sun Magazine; "Katy" (9/11 Commemorative Poem) at UNC-TV, 2011, Text at NC Arts Everyday; "Jesus Meets the Women" at Rattle; "Coach Wheeler Tapes My Ankles" at War, Literature &  the Arts Journal; "The Cartographer" and "Living Together", Both at Weber Studies; "Women's Prison" at Wild Goose Poetry Review; "Veronica Wipes Jesus's Face" at The Christian Century; "Huron Valley", "Poetry", and "Jesus Meets His Mother", All at Platte Valley Review; "The Last Day I Drank With Phil" at NC Arts Everyday; "Epigenesis" at Verse Daily; "The Death of East Liberty" and "Pentecost", Both at Town Creek Poetry; "Restoring Sacred Art", "Domenico Guiseppe", and "Wheeling", All At Here, Where I Am

Anson County on GoogleBooks

Town Creek Poetry "Interview with Featured Poet Joseph Bathanti", Spring 2011

There are numerous YouTube videos of Bathanti reading his poems and presenting keynote lectures. In this video, the Poet Laureate talks about becoming a poet:

Bathanti reads at the 2010 Public Poetry Project at Penn State University, March 25, 2010, in this video (Part 1) and video (Part 2).

Reviews of Restoring Sacred Art at The Pedestal Magazine, Issue 60; The Widening Spell, June 28, 2012

Review of Land of Amnesia at Musings, March 17, 2010

Joseph Bathanti on FaceBook (Press 53)

Parkway Publishers

Press 53

St. Andrews College Press

Star Cloud Press


Louise Gallagher said...

Oh wow!

that quote is awesome and the lines form Huron are powerful.

Kathleen said...

I always love learning about the new poet laureates from you! The window-gazing is wonderful. I do it, too, and I keep telling poets in my workshop that it can be a great place to start a poem.