Poet Laureate Leads Workshop at Walter Reed Bethesda

Poet Laureate of North Carolina Joseph Bathanti hosts a poetry reading and writing workshop at Walter Reed Bethesda recently.Photo by David Dickinson

by David A. Dickinson, WRNMMC Journal Staff Writer

As part of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s (WRNMMC) Stages of Healing program, Poet Laureate of North Carolina Joseph Bathanti hosted a poetry reading and writing workshop at Walter Reed Bethesda recently.

Bathanti, who teaches at Appalachian State University, is the author of six poetry books. A native of Pittsburg, he originally traveled to North Carolina in 1976 to volunteer in prisons, where he continues to teach and hold workshops.

The poet laureate position in North Carolina requires the person participate in various literary activities across the state and country, working with schools and community groups, according to the North Carolina Arts Council.

After becoming the seventh North Carolina poet laureate on Sept. 20, 2012, Bathanti determined he would focus on assisting the veteran population with their writings as a way to express their feelings and emotions.

“I was asked, when being installed as the poet laureate, to develop a signature project,” he explained. “I wanted to work with combat and returning veterans to harvest these stories.”

During his workshop at WRNMMC, Bathanti read one of his poems, “Advising,” which speaks to the challenges faced by a remedial student he once advised.

“Mr. Bathanti’s style was sort of a revelation for me. He seemed to be able to reach inside himself and find a complex emotion, and craft a poem in gorgeous language,” said Staff Sgt. Bryon E. Reiger, a WRNMMC nurse and aspiring writer.

As part of the workshop, Bathanti also encouraged the group to write their own poetry, drawing on personal reflection. The pieces had to be entitled, “Where I’m From.”

Dr. Micah Sickel, coordinator for Stages of Healing events, said, “The assignment brought out a great deal of emotion in the room, from smiles to some tears.”

“My biological father was a poet in New Orleans,” explained Reiger, who began writing poetry as a middle school student. He read a poem about his upbringing and the challenges he overcame.

Bathanti expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to work with the service members and staff at WRNMMC. “This is just the supreme honor to be here, period,” he said.

For more information about Stages of Healing events at WRNMMC, contact Dr. Micah Sickel at micah.j.sickel.civ@health.mil.

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