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N.C. Poet Laureate presents poetry reading and book signing at Appalachian

BOONE—In celebration of the release of Joseph Bathanti’s latest book of poems, “Concertina” (Mercer University Press), The Scholars Bookshop inside the University Bookstore at Appalachian State University will host a poetry reading and book signing Thursday, Nov. 7, at 3:30 p.m.

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This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Bill Pillow at pillowwp@appstate.edu, or call 828-262-3070.

Bathanti was named North Carolina Poet Laureate in June 2012. He also is a professor of creative writing at Appalachian, director of the Writing in the Field program and writer-in-residence in the university’s Watauga Global Community.

Bathanti’s connection to North Carolina began in 1976 when he left his home in Pittsburgh for a 14-month sojourn as a VISTA Volunteer with the North Carolina Department of Correction.

According to Mercer University Press, his new volume of poems recounts his entry into the surreal, brutal and often terrifyingly beautiful netherworld of convicts and their keepers. The press describes his book as “a world with one foot still firmly planted in the old chain gang, the other venturing beyond the manacles of history into a realm of second chances, while the country, in the throes of its bicentennial celebration, still swoons from Watergate and its aftermath.”

The collection includes poems about the gas chamber, bounty hunters, bloodhounds and violence. “But there are also poems about yard basketball games, the prison kitchen, Christmas parties, children visiting their imprisoned mothers, guards as undone by their lives in prison as the prisoners, and released convicts stumbling into society after years behind bars. Even Raskolnikov makes a cameo,” according to the press’s publicity information. “All the while, the speaker is falling in love with another VISTA volunteer, a woman from Georgia. Above all, these poems doggedly insist that, even in abject suffering, sustained love and shared humanity supply redemption.”

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