The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 21, 2013

Poet Laureate to visit ECC

FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
SUBMITTED

TARBORO — North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti is scheduled to speak next week at Edgecombe Community College (ECC) during a statewide tour of schools, prisons, and libraries.

Bathanti, a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University in Boone, is expected to read from his books of poetry and short stories when he visits the college’s Keihin Auditorium.

The reading will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a reception and book signing. Books will be available for purchase.

The reading and reception are free and open to the public.

“We’re trying to spread the importance of not only poetry but also literature in general,” says Carole Mehle, ECC English/humanities instructor. “We want to show how important literature is.”

Bathanti, an award-winning poet and novelist, came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania in 1976 as a member of Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA. His first assignment was Huntersville Prison.

“I was just out of grad school, and one minute, I was in my mother’s kitchen, and the next minute, I was in a prison yard,” says Bathanti, who has remained active in social causes in North Carolina for the past four decades.

After then-Gov. Bev Perdue named Bathanti the state’s seventh poet laureate in 2012, he began working on a project with military veterans in an effort “to get them to tell their stories.”

Bathanti conducted a workshop last month at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He says he would like to focus more on the soldiers’ writing and perhaps turn his poet laureate project into an anthology of their stories in their own words.

When he visits ECC next week, he is expected to read from his book of poetry from Anson County. He also might read a short story during his visit.

“Years and years ago, I visited a lot of community colleges, and I’m delighted to be going to Edgecombe Community College,” he says. “Many of my poems are based in Eastern North Carolina.”

On Wednesday, Bathanti is expected to stopover at Fountain Correctional Center for Women in Rocky Mount, where ECC conducts job training, GED, and basic skills programs for the inmates.

“We’re excited that he expressed an interest in us,” Mehle says of Bathanti. “He’s intent on visiting community colleges. We believe that we have a cultural responsibility to the community, and we want to provide these types of opportunities as much as we can.”