N.C. Poet Laureate Speaks at Library
By Missy Miller
Special to The Pilot
"I can't imagine a better place in the United States to be a writer than North Carolina," said Joseph Bathanti, upon his appointment as North Carolina's seventh poet laureate last September.
"There is no place richer in literature and no place that has celebrated writers in quite the same way as our state does."
Bathanti will read from his works and speak about his craft at the Southern Pines Public Library on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 3 to 4 p.m.
Praised by former Gov. Beverly Perdue as "an award-winning poet and novelist with a robust commitment to social causes," Bathanti brings both a literary and public service background to his current position.
"State Librarian Cal Shepard notified public libraries that Mr. Bathanti was eager to work with us," says Library Director Lynn Thompson. "We learned that his passion for writing grew from a childhood love of stories and books. What a wonderful illustration to support Southern Pines Grows Great Readers, the community's ongoing project to ensure that all children learn to read."
Bathanti grew up in East Liberty, an Italian neighborhood in Pittsburgh. In 1976, he came to North Carolina as a member of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and worked with prison inmates. For more than 30 years, he led writers' workshops in the state prison system. He also served as chairman of the N.C. Writer's Network Prison Project.
From 1985 to 1989, Bathanti worked in the N.C. Visiting Artist Program in rural Anson, McDowell and Union counties. He wrote about this influential program in the nonfiction book "They Changed the State: The Legacy of North Carolina's Visiting Artists, 1971-1995."
Bathanti currently resides in Vilas and is a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University.
He also serves as director of the Writing in the Field program and writer-in-residence for the University's Watauga Global Community.
His books of poetry include "This Metal" (republished 2012, Press 53); "Restoring Sacred Art" (2010, Star Cloud Press); "Land of Amnesia" (2009, Press 53); "Anson County" (republished 2005, Parkway Publishers); "The Feast of All Saints" (1994, Nightshade Press); and "Communion Partners" (1986, Briarpatch Press).
Bathanti has also published one book of short stories, "The High Heart," and two novels, "Coventry" and "East Liberty."
These works are on display in the library foyer and are available for checkout.
The N.C. Poet Laureate program is directed by the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources.
Often referred to as the "ambassador of N.C. literature," the poet laureate serves a two-year term renewable at the governor's discretion.
The duties of the office include promoting and supporting North Carolina writers; public service to schools, community groups and the press; and writing commemorative poetry for important occasions.
In addition to being a resident of North Carolina, nominees must meet criteria including literary excellence of the writer's work, influence on other writers, statewide or national reputation, and the ability and willingness to perform required duties. Public nominations are accepted and reviewed by the selection committee, who then makes recommendations to the governor.
In keeping with the Library theme this year of "Home Grown in Southern Pines," this program also pays tribute to the state's third poet laureate, Sam Ragan.
Owner, editor and publisher of The Pilot from 1969-1996, Ragan was appointed by Gov. James B. Hunt in 1982 and served as poet laureate until his death in 1996.
Ragan served as president of Friends of Weymouth and was the driving force behind the creation of the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame, housed at Weymouth Center. Poetry and novels by past poets laureate Ragan and Fred Chappell are also available for checkout at the library.
"We are very pleased to host Mr. Bathanti at the library," says Amanda Snyder, assistant director. "This event provides a unique opportunity for our patrons to meet and be inspired by one of North Carolina's accomplished literary resources."
This program is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by Friends of Southern Pines Library.
For more information about library programs for all ages, call (910) 692-8235 or visit www.sppl.net.
Missy Miller is a reference librarian at Southern Pines Public Library.
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