Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti Writes Poem to Celebrate Veterans

Raleigh, N.C. (November 7, 2013) — North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti, who has dedicated himself to working with veterans during his tenure, has written his second poem to recognize veterans, families of veterans and all North Carolina citizens who honor America’s veterans.

Bathanti, entering his second year as poet laureate for the state, has written a poem entitled Fayetteville to celebrate Veterans Day Monday, Nov. 11. The poem honors veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice.

North Carolina is home to eight military installations, including Fort Bragg, Pope Air Force Base, and Camp Lejeune, to name a few, and has one of the largest populations of veterans in the United States.

“North Carolina is overflowing with unforgettable stories of veterans and their families,” Bathanti said. He was appointed Poet Laureate in September 2012 and since then has conducted writing workshops across the state to bring the stories to life. His first poem was entitled Saint Francis’s Satyr Butterfly.

In conjunction with Veterans Day several events are scheduled and open to the public. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8, and 9 and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15, and 16 the Touring Theatre of North Carolina producing artistic director Brenda P. Schluenes, in consultation with Bathanti, will present “Deployed,” a staged reading for five voices and guitar based on the most evocative of submissions from veterans, their family members, and active duty personnel that speak directly to the experiences of serving and the aftermath of returning to civilian life.

The event is schedule at 8 p.m. at Mack and Mack, 220 South Elm Street, Greensboro, NC 27401 For more information visit: http://www.ttnc.org/  

Friday, Nov. 15, Bathanti will read his work at the first annual Carolina Veterans Weekend scheduled at 7 p.m. at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo. This is a celebration of veterans and their families expressed through the arts. His reading will be followed by musical performances by Molasses Creek and Jonny Waters & Company, presented as part of The Don & Katherine Bryan Cultural Series. For more information, visit http://darearts.org/.

Bathanti is a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University where he is also Director of Writing in the Field and Writer-in-Residence in the University’s Watauga Global Community. He has taught writing workshops in prisons for more than three decades and is former chair of the N.C. Writers’ Network Prison project.

Below is the poem, Fayetteville. It is also attached as a PDF. News outlets can arrange interviews with Joseph Bathanti by contacting Rebecca Moore at (919) 807-6530.


By Joseph Bathanti

Dedicated to Bruce Weigl

… I close my eyes and see the girl
running from her village, napalm
stuck to her dress like jelly,
her hands reaching for the no one
who waits in waves of heat before her.

From the title poem,  Song of Napalm


Hurtling through the endless shrouded
gauntlet of Bragg Boulevard –
the machinery, the certainty,
of war secreted matter-of-factly

on either side of it – everything
arrested, etherized – the only danger
a broken tequila bottle
on the sand spit shoulder, neon

signs for bars and guns and tattoos,
a couple Rangers in camos
who nearly drop a mattress from Badcock’s
they’re loading in a pickup –

I carry Song of Napalm,
a first edition, on its jacket face
a helmeted GI, mouth agape
in mute keen. The glowing font

is napalm orange – Song and of
burning over the soldier’s eyes,
Napalm scored across his nostrils.
In the watery lamplight,

on the table next to my hotel bed,
the volume shape-shifts like a hologram.
It pages to black tunnels, wending on and on.
Even the beautiful detonates.

Yet the rounds in that book, its shrapnel,
lethal trope and caliber, remain humble,
almost shy, in combat –
purity that becomes Buddha.

Versed in the lotus,
the poet makes a small place for defeat.
It is sleep he yearns for;
war is an insomniac.

The little girl in the poem,
dedicated to his wife
(which I find soothing, here
in a strange room, without my wife),

is Kim Phúc, naked, fleeing
Trang Bang in ’72 –
Nick Ut’s famous photograph, Napalm Girl.
Carefully I read each word, each

metric foot, down to the syllable –
to help me reckon what truth travels
into and beyond immolation,
that I might be visited by that God.

The next morning at Howard Hall
Elementary, where Count Basie’s jazz
pipes through its corridors, I read
1st graders poems by Shel Silverstein:

zany tongue-twisting alliterative
nonsense – about a bear
in a refrigerator and how to make
a hippopotamus sandwich.

The children sit at my feet
and laugh uncontrollably.
Whispering liftships rise
in the haunted mist.

—Joseph Bathanti

To learn more about the poet laureate program visit www.ncarts.org/poet_laureate.


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The North Carolina Arts Council works to make North Carolina The Creative State where a robust arts industry produces a creative economy, vibrant communities, children prepared for the 21st century and lives filled with discovery and learning. The Arts Council accomplishes this in partnership with artists and arts organizations, other organizations that use the arts to make their communities stronger and North Carolinians—young and old—who enjoy and participate in the arts. For more information visit www.ncarts.org.

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The N.C. Arts Council is a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, which annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources serves as a champion for North Carolina’s creative industry that accounts for more than 300,000 jobs and generates nearly $18.5 billion in revenues. To learn more, visit www.ncculture.com.