Professor Joseph Bathanti shares excerpts from latest book


The Appalachian Online

The Appalachian

Joseph Bathanti read an essay from his most recent book, titled “Half of What I Say is Meaningless,” as part of an author reading and book signing at The Scholars Bookshop inside University Bookstore on Oct. 9.

Bathanti is a creative writing professor at Appalachian State University and is North Carolina’s resident Poet Laureate.

He began by reading a poem written by George Ella Lyon, the visiting writer who has spent the past two months at Appalachian, as a sign of gratitude.

Bathanti then read one of his essays to the assembled audience. He said his first job, as a busboy for a restaurant, led to the revelation that manual labor was not his forte – an existential epiphany of his insignificance in the world.

“My delusions of grandeur – my superiority – were exploded,” he read. “It wasn’t that I thought I was too good for the work. Rather, it was my singular anonymity that disheartened me.”

“Half of What I Say is Meaningless” is Bathanti’s 13th book. In addition to the essay he read, other stories included the culture shock of the American South when he visited Atlanta from Pittsburgh, his relationship with Catholicism and his recollection of the historic home run by Pirates’ second baseman Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 World Series.

“He’s got a really good sound and a flow to the way that he crafts his sentences,” said Trace McGee, a senior English major who was in attendance.

Many of those in attendance were Bathanti’s students, who had come to show support for their professor.

McGee said he admired the way Bathanti made personal connections with his students.

“[Class is] always very personal, and I really enjoy that because I think that a lot of professors are really distanced from their students,” McGee said.

Ben Parker, a junior philosophy major, added each class with Bathanti feels fluid and different.

“He’s really adaptive to each class session,” Parker said. “I don’t know if he comes in with that much of a plan, but it ends up being an interesting class no matter what. And if he does come in with a plan, it always seems to match the mood of the class each day.”

Bathanti said in his classes, he mostly reacts to the input of the students, and largely lets them dictate the conversation.

“It’s the class personality that helps dictate things,” Bathanti said. “It’s really the students that provide the energy for the teacher to feed off of.”

Story: Thomas Culkin, Intern News Reporter