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Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh names Bathanti inaugural scholar-in-residence

BOONE—N.C. Poet Laureate and Appalachian State University creative writing professor Joseph Bathanti has been named the first scholar-in-residence at the Senator John Heinz History Center. The center is located in Pittsburgh.

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Bathanti will produce an original body of work inspired by his research in the center’s Italian-American Collection, which consists of several hundred artifacts, thousands of archival records, and more than 300 oral histories from local residents.

The author of eight books of poetry, Bathanti also wrote the novel, “East Liberty,” which won the Carolina Novel Award in 2001, and “Coventry,” which received the Novello Literary Award in 2006.

“I grew up in an Italian family so to receive this residency will be a rewarding experience,”Bathanti said. “My family on both my mother’s and father’s side emigrated from Italy to the U.S. in 1907, so a lot of my work is formed by their history and experiences.”

Bathanti will review letters, photographs and other materials that are in the Heinz Center’s Italian-American Collection, particularly letters that Italian-American soldiers from Pittsburgh wrote to loved ones while overseas during World War II. “I am really excited about the opportunity to dig into and live with this material,” he said.

As part of the residency, Bathanti will lead a memoir writing workshop, “Where You Live: Writing about Yourself and Your Family,” for Pittsburgh-area residents. Participants will develop a story about where they and their families live and have lived. Bathanti will discuss how memory, for better or worse, figures into personal writing. He also will participate in lectures and poetry readings in Pittsburgh throughout January.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Bathanti holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Warren Wilson College.

He came to North Carolina as a VISTA Volunteer in 1976 to work with prison inmates. He joined the faculty at Appalachian in 2001 and is also the writer-in-residence for the university’s Watauga Global Community and director of the Writing in the Field program.

The Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, presents American history with a Western Pennsylvania connection. More information is available at http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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