Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer: Joseph Bathanti


What is your go-to pen(cil)? I tend to like pens, specifically from the Asheville Renaissance Hotel in downtown Asheville, NC. They are sleek and silver push-button ballpoints that look like the fuselage of a jet. But I would like to praise the pencil, specifically the #2 Ticonderoga. How I loved them as a child.

Most beautiful word in all the world: Joan.

Alter ego: I hope it’s my dad; but, if not, James Bond.

What’s for dinner? Long imported fusilli, purchased in the now vanished past, in now vanished Labriola’s Market on Larimer Avenue; a plain red sauce (my mother’s recipe, gloriously reprised by my Atlanta wife, also the most beautiful word in the world, Joan); eggplant parmigiana; a green salad dressed elegantly by hand with lemon and olive oil and garlic, a few black and green olives; a wedge of Fontinella so sharp the roof of your mouth peels; two loaves of Italian bread from Rimini’s; a skirmish of simple delicious bottles of chianti; and all my amazing ancestors who’ve dropped in from Heaven.

What’re you reading? I’ve been reading The Confessions of Young Nero because I had decided early on that Trump reminded me of Nero. Reading this novel, however, makes me realize that such a comparison is a mighty insult to Nero.

Who is your most-recent writer crush? It remains Sylvia Plath, a kind of monogamous crush that has remained steady since I first read Ariel, then read her bio and letters.

Song lyrics stuck in your head, go: Leadbelly singing, “Take this Hammer and carry it to the Captain. Take this Hammer and carry it to the Captain. If he asks you was I laughing, tell him I was crying.”

You’re a new edition to the Crayola box. Congratulations. What is your new name? Blue Love.

What are you putting off? I had been putting off completing this interview, I’m sorry to say, but now I’m putting off another interview. I do want to say, however, that this is the most fun I’ve ever had with an interview.

What was the last gift you gave someone? I gave a beautiful baseball glove to my favorite neighbor, Vivian Elaine Davidson, 6 years old.

What were you like as a college or graduate student? I was pretty serious about my studies in undergrad and grad school—reading like a fiend and plotting an unlikely life as a writer—but still a working-class, happy-go-lucky kid with a job driving a delivery truck for a flower shop in Pittsburgh run by four insane brothers who despised one another.

Here’s your free ticket. Where are we going? We are headed for Manfredonia, Puglia, in the province of Foggia.

Optional doodle. I’ve attached a photograph, taken 32 years ago, of me and my wife, Joan, and her beloved dog, who was terribly and pathologically jealous of me, named Piggy Bear.



Joseph Bathanti is former Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2012-14) and recipient of the 2016 North Carolina Award for Literature. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Communion Partners; Anson County; The Feast of All Saints; This Metal, nominated for the National Book Award, and winner of the Oscar Arnold Young Award; Land of Amnesia; Restoring Sacred Art, winner of the 2010 Roanoke Chowan Prize, awarded annually by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association for best book of poetry in a given year; Sonnets of the Cross; Concertina, winner of the 2014 Roanoke Chowan Prize; and The 13th Sunday after Pentecost, released by LSU Press in 2016. His novel, East Liberty, won the 2001 Carolina Novel Award. His novel, Coventry, won the 2006 Novello Literary Award. His book of stories, The High Heart, won the 2006 Spokane Prize. They Changed the State: The Legacy of North Carolina’s Visiting Artists, 1971-1995, his book of nonfiction, was published in early 2007. His recent book of personal essays, Half of What I Say Is Meaningless, winner of the Will D. Campbell Award for Creative Nonfiction, is from Mercer University Press. A new novel, The Life of the World to Come, was released from University of South Carolina Press in late 2014. Bathanti is Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and the University’s Watauga Residential College Writer-in-Residence. He served as the 2016 Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence in Asheville, NC.



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