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N.C. Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti: On Becoming a Poet

I did not develop with Flannery O’Connor calls the habit being which means, the habit of actually writing until I came to North Carolina. So again that magical connection for some reason in 1976 when I got here as it is to volunteer. I started writing are habitually, I started sitting down in actually writing poems I had made that connection, that if you wait long enough for inspiration nothing will occur because like so many other things this one ever get inspired to I do not know develop a workout program or a diet you’re not inspired you do it. So it was a real leap in maturity I got the I got it to date you have to sit down and actually put words on paper in order for a book to begin to build, so I again developed what I would call habit of being and I also began to delve into my own life, the idea that I it had a reach life up to that point was absolutely foreign to me you know I was just some kid from East Liberty I had not cross the English Channel I hadn’t are climb Mount Everest I had been in combat with the world had I ever done that anyone will ever wanna hear about.

So I began to write about my life in the really the first poem that I think they are wrote that was was good it felt like there were tons more just like that in me, in there were was a poem about my father’s, father my grandfather who had come to the United States are in 1907 from are Polio Louisiana ship in steerage, like so many others tell me immigrants in in launch that side of the family. so I was able to move out of that sort of big deep image, if you will where we all starting we should never apologize for where we start because you have to write badly before you can write well just like you have to play bad golf before you play good golf. I began to get into the specifics specificity I begin understand what the image in with imagery means and how to use the five senses and how to actually get into this specificity what happened story the narrative, because I think early on thinking about poetry I had divorced poetry from narrative and of course kids who grew up when I grew up not unlike young people growing up, now associate poetry often exclusively with formalism whose would these are I think I know his house in the village though rhyming poetry with very strict metric conventions, which are wonderful one is not better than the other but perverse which I hadn’t really encountered in wouldn’t have known it was even called that just gave me license in permission to ramble and tell the stories that
really did reside in me but that doesn’t make me unique they reside in everybody.

So not only would it open a wellspring for me as a young poet, but it also opened wellspring for me as a young teacher because now I could begin to harp to my students it is I still do about the stories that day on body. In or their in whether they think they’ve done anything or not I’m there to tell them that by good stay they absolutely have I have to quotes at the top of my syllabi one is by from Richard Hugo and his book the triggering town indeed is the creative lot the creative writing classroom is a place where your life still matters in the other is by Flannery O’Connor on who’s who relied or mine southern writer on my dad, in I will paraphrase it basically says if you survive your childhood you have enough to write about for the rest of your life so predicated on that I started teaching my my hero writing classes by.