BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s Joseph Bathanti — North Carolina’s seventh poet laureate (2012–14) — was recently honored with the Lee Smith Award during the 2019 Mountain Heritage Literary Festival (MHLF) held at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Harrogate, Tennessee. The prize recognizes an individual who has worked to preserve and promote Appalachian culture.
“To win an award with Lee Smith’s name attached to it is a supreme and humbling honor,” Bathanti said. “How I love and admire her and her work.”
Bathanti is professor of creative writing in Appalachian’s Department of English and the McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Education, teaching full time in Appalachian’s Watauga Residential College and developing new programs to promote the college. He served as the 2016 Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence in Asheville.
He served as the keynote speaker for the 2019 MHLF and led the festival’s poetry master class.
In his keynote address, Bathanti said, “When asked to recapitulate my career, I always say that my first teaching job was in a prison, and in the narrowest sense this is true. What I fail to say is that my teaching in prison was, in many ways, the beginning of my own education.
“Prisons are but one shackle in the ponderous chain of group homes, halfway houses, soup kitchens, mental hospitals, domestic abuse shelters, juvenile detention centers and homeless shelters. The same characters show up in each script. It’s no secret that all social ills are intimately connected, but it’s something I had to learn by seeing it for myself.”
Bathanti is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2001 Carolina Novel Award for his novel East Liberty”; the 2006 Novello Literary Award for his novel “Coventry”; and the 2016 North Carolina Award for Literature. Additionally, his book of stories, “The High Heart,” won the 2006 Spokane Prize, and he received the Will D. Campbell Award for Creative Nonfiction for his book of personal essays titled “Half of What I Say Is Meaningless.”
The Lee Smith Award, named in honor of Appalachia’s best-known writer, spotlights those doing good work in the region. Smith’s publications include “Fair and Tender Ladies,” “On Agate Hill” and many others. Prior recipients of the Lee Smith Award include Silas House, Earl Hamner Jr., Sheila Kay Adams, George Ella Lyon, Beverly May, John Lang and Pamela Duncan.
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About the Department of English
The Department of English at Appalachian State University is committed to outstanding work in the classroom, the support and mentorship of students, and a dynamic engagement with culture, history, language, theory and literature. The department offers master’s degrees in English and rhetoric and composition, as well as undergraduate degrees in literary studies, film studies, creative writing, professional writing and English education. Learn more at https://english.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About the Watauga Residential College at Appalachian
The Watauga Residential College is a specialized academic program where classes are discussion-based seminars that allow students to pursue topics of interest to them within the context of the class. This program provides an unusual opportunity for students to become engaged in learning at a deep level through class discussions and research projects. Watauga classes are interdisciplinary and this approach to learning requires students to integrate knowledge from a variety of disciplines to gain a complete perspective on a topic. Learn more at https://watauga.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.