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N.C. Poet Laureate and ASU Professor Stars in Film ‘Bathanti,’ Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

By Rebecca Mullins

Nov. 7, 2013. Joseph Bathanti, N.C. Poet Laureate and Appalachian State University English professor, is now the star in Kevin Balling’s newest documentary, “Bathanti.” This 72-minute film takes you around the country on a tour of the key destinations featured in Bathanti’s poetry, fiction and essays. It brings to life the Poet Laureate’s work by joining Bathanti’s voice with Balling’s film. 

“Through his filming, he’s really brought my work alive in unusual ways,” stated Bathanti. “He has paired my language and my work literally with images of my memory.”

The film is a delightful easing into Bathanti’s works. Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading one of his poems, you’ll get a step in the door of Bathanti’s world through this film.

On Monday, Nov. 25, you have a chance to see the film at 7 p.m. in the Greenbrier Theater in Plemmons Student Union at Appalachian State University. This film is an artistic combination of the two men’s mediums; film and writing. To see a short excerpt from the video or purchase a copy for yourself, click here.

Bathanti and soundman David Friday during filming
Photo by Catherine Altice

The film covers much of Bathanti’s earlier life, and only a little on his position as NC’s Poet Laureate. The documentary was in its final stages, with the filming completed and the editing process still underway, when Bathanti was named Poet Laureate.

Bathanti shared that the film truly began the day Kevin Balling knocked on his office door years ago with the proposition: a documentary on Joseph Bathanti. 

“When I found out I was completely astonished,” shared Bathanti. “It’s a great honor. One doesn’t expect that kind of thing to happen.”

Balling narrowed down the focus for the documentary to certain key works of Bathantis and the two were off. They filmed over the course of five years in Pittsburgh, Bathanti’s childhood home, and across North Carolina, using his childhood neighborhood, elementary school and past homes as settings for the film. 

“Revisting a lot of those places rekindled my interest to write a lot about them,” said Bathanti. 

He took notes on many of the places they visited, for use in his writing. Now that the filming’s over, he’s taken up his pen once more and continues to write as one of North Carolina’s greatest poetic stars.