Musings about the writing life.

Monday, September 30, 2013

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti Visits GTCC

September 25th, 2013
Jamestown, NC

12-1 pm Poetry Reading
Joseph Bathanti read poetry in the AT Auditorium, introducing each one with a great anecdote.  The subject was often "leaving home." For him, he had left Pittsburgh to come to North Carolina.  One poem was about the night before his sister was getting married.  In that case, his sister was "leaving home" for the first time.  Joseph Bathanti's poems are often free verse with a narrative threading through.  He captured everyone's attention and even raffled off two of his poetry books at the end.

1-2 pm Conversations with Veterans
Bathanti in his position as poet laureate especially loves to work with veterans.  He thinks that writing can be therapeutic for veterans.  He stated, "Either you control the memory, or the memory controls you."  He mentioned that 2 million Americans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and 1/4 of them have been diagnosed with PTSD.

He mentioned some of the following resources for veterans:
I asked him if there was a piece of writing associated with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, is often associated with literature about the Vietnam War.

One student vet in the audience shared that after he read "The Things They Carried" with his English class, he couldn't go back to class for a week--it had brought up all these memories and feelings.

He suggested two books:
  • The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers (He's from Bluefield, VA.)
  • Here, Bullet (Poems) by Brian Turner
Looking for where to submit poems and short stories you write?
He suggested going to the website

3-4 pm Writing Creatively
The final session of the day was a round table discussion conversation about poetry with the GTCC Creative Writers Club members and some visiting guests.  Bathanti explained the difference between formalism and free verse. We discussed how poetry does not seem to be beach material and what a prose poem is exactly.

He suggested enhancing your poetry by always putting in a dramatic situation, a situation we can see/witness.  Then narrate that.

He said to try to avoid the "ephemeral" (feelings).  Use imagery.  Use language that appeals to the senses.

A poem has to sound good.  "Don't get 'format anxiety,'" he said.

"Show not Tell."  Isn't saying "he smashed Junior's face in" so much better than saying he was angry?  Isn't it great how you see Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman come on stage in the first scene and you just see him put his heavy suitcases down? (I am paraphrasing, but that is a good image!!)

He told us he personally was highly influenced by Robert Lowell's autobiographical poems in Life Studies, which I need to go and pick up....

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