Thursday, September 2, 2010

Joseph Bathanti to Lead Poetry Workshop at October Poetry Hickory

World-renowned poet, educator, and activist, Joseph Bathanti will facilitate a poetry workshop prior to October’s Poetry Hickory at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. The workshop, sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society, will begin at 5:00 and extend to 6:30 on Tuesday, October 12, and will be followed by Poetry Hickory, which will feature readings by Bathanti, and Robert Abbate, and a 30-minute Open Mic.

Cost of the workshop is $15 for NCPS members and $25 for non-members. Membership information is available at Deadline for registration is September 28 and can be reserved by contacting Scott Owens at or 828-234-4266. Registrants will be asked to send a poem of 30 lines or less to Owens for possible discussion during the workshop. Space is limited, so early registration is encouraged.

Here is a profile of Bathanti’s work:

Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, Joseph Bathanti is the author of six books of poetry: Communion Partners; Anson County; The Feast of All Saints; This Metal, which was nominated for The National Book Award, and won the 1997 Oscar Arnold Young Award from The North Carolina Poetry Council for best book of poems by a North Carolina writer; Land of Amnesia; and his new collection, Restoring Scared Art.

His first novel, East Liberty, winner of the Carolina Novel Award, was published in 2001. His latest novel, Coventry, won the 2006 Novello Literary Award. He is also the author of They Changed the State: The Legacy of North Carolina’s Visiting Artists, 1971-1995, and a collection of short stories, The High Heart, winner of the 2006 Spokane Prize.

He is the recipient of two Literature Fellowships (in 1994 for poetry and 2009 for fiction) from the North Carolina Arts Council; The Samuel Talmadge Ragan Award, presented annually for outstanding contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina over an extended period; the Bruno Arcudi Literature Prize; the Ernest A Lynton Faculty Award for Professional Service and Academic Outreach; the Aniello Lauri Award for Creative Writing (2001 and 2007); the Linda Flowers Prize; the Sherwood Anderson Award and others.

Bathanti’s various involvements in criminal justice began in 1976 when he left his hometown in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to come to North Carolina as a VISTA Volunteer assigned to the North Carolina Department of Correction. For fourteen months as a VISTA, he taught and coached inmates, started Alcoholic Anonymous chapters at two prison camps, coordinated work and study release programs, developed job and parole plans for inmates on the verge of release, and conducted a weekly creative writing workshop. Out of this workshop came an anthology of inmate writing and art work, edited by Bathanti, called Bewteen Ourselves. As a VISTA, Bathanti also worked with a Charlotte agency, ECO (Ex-Convicts Organization) where he edited The ECO Journal and served on ECO’s Board of Directors.

After leaving VISTA, he began his teaching career at Central Piedmont Community College where he taught not only English, his major area of study, but also taught in the Criminal Justice Department, and taught as well a Learning Lab at Huntersville Prison, just north of Charlotte. During this time, Bathanti and his wife Joan (also a former VISTA) were house-parents for abused and neglected children, many of whom were adjudicated youth and status offenders. Also, during this time, he became involved in death penalty work, was a member of Charlotte Citizens Against the Death Penalty, and appeared on radio and TV as a staunch abolitionist.

Over the past 33 years, Bathanti has lectured, read his work and conducted workshops in a variety of prisons, training schools, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, daycare centers, nursing homes, soup kitchens, barns, gyms, train depots, and fish camps. He is the past Chair of the North Carolina Writers’ Network Prison Project, and served as a Humanities scholar through the Georgia Humanities Council on a writing/performance project with AIDS patients at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. He is the winner of the 1995 Ruth Ann Blankenship Prize, given annually by Statesville, NC Fifth Street Ministries for work in its battered women’s shelter, My Sister’s House, where he taught a weekly creative writing workshop. In 1998, he was awarded the Viola Kimbrough Parker Diversity Award by Mitchell Community College for his work to promote diversity and multiculturalism. He is the recipient of 1999 Ernest A. Lynton Faculty Award for Professional Service and Academic Outreach (specifically in the area of prison outreach and advocacy), presented annually by The New England Resource Center for Higher Education, with support from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He has been awarded grants by the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Puffin Foundation for his work among marginalized populations. For ten years, from 1991-2001, he taught an annual week-long creative writing workshop at a North Carolina prison road camp in Stateville, NC with legendary prison writing teacher and Black Mountain College graduate, Fielding Dawson.

During the academic year 2005-06, he weekly took a group of creative writing students into Boone’s homeless shelter, Hospitality House, and facilitated a writing workshop among the residents there. This initiative resulted in an anthology, featuring the work of the residents and Appalachian State University students, called Voices from the Hospitality House. He has taught courses on prison literature (one of his academic specialties) at colleges, universities churches, and writers’ conferences

Bathanti’s prison writing has appeared in some of the nation’s premier literary journals, including Shenandoah, Poetry International, The Greenfield Review, Pembroke Magazine,The Davidson Miscellany, Florida Humanities, The Phoenix, Witness, The Journal of Public Service and Outreach, Our Era, The Birmingham Poetry Review, Blue Mesa Review, Cafe Solo, Lost Horse Press Anthology of Human Rights Poetry, The Sound of Poets Cooking, Aethlon, Cotton Boll, The Sun, Harpoon and others.

His poem “Cletis Pratt,” about a Vietnam Veteran sent to prison, is the winner of the 2007 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize, awarded annually by the Nuclear Age Foundation in Santa Barbara, California. His prison writing has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won a Blumenthal Readers and Writers Series Award.

Most recently, in March of 2009, he guest-edited the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, an anthology of prisoner writing published through University of Michigan’s Prisoner Creative Arts Project (PCAP); and also conducted creative writing workshops in Detroit and Ann Arbor prisons While in Michigan he spoke on matters of criminal justice at the University of Michigan, Shaman Drum Book store, and was interviewed about his prison work and writing on WDET, Wayne State University public radio station. Under the sponsorship of Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative (MPRI), he also spoke at Eastern Michigan University, and Artist Village in Detroit.

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