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Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti Pens Poem to celebrate Veterans Day

In September when award winning poet, professor and advocate for literacy, Joseph Bathanti, took the post as North Carolina's seventh poet laureate, he announced plans to work with veterans to share their stories of military service — including combat zones — through poetry.

To celebrate Veterans Day on Sunday, November 11, Bathanti has written a poem for veterans, families of veterans and for all of us who honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice.

The poem is entitled Saint Francis's Satyr Butterfly and celebrates the miraculous metamorphosis of the Saint Francis's Satyr, a rare endangered butterfly only found in the United States at Fort Bragg, one of the largest Army bases in the country.

"North Carolina, arguably the heart of the U.S. military establishment, is overflowing with unforgettable stories of veterans and their families, and across the state there are various initiatives dedicated to bringing these accounts to the surface," Bathanti said. His goal is to create a sustainable collaborative model for teaching writing workshops for vets that can be duplicated across North Carolina, in addition to collaborating with other initiatives for veterans involving the arts.

The arts and the military have a long history and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has deepened the relationship, developing a variety of programs for veterans and current military including Great American Voices and Shakespeare in American Communities that brought arts performances to military audiences. Another program was Operation Homecoming that offered military personnel and their families the chance to explain the impact of military service through creative writing.

"Increasingly, artists, caregivers and service members are investigating ways to bring the transformative power of the arts into healing efforts for our troops," said Bill O'Brien, Senior Advisor for Program Innovation at the National Endowment for the Arts. "The creative act, via the construction of a song or poem or painting, provides a platform for wounded service members to be heard. More importantly, it allows them to be understood."

The NEA's recent NEA Arts magazine dedicated the complete issue to the military and the arts. To view visit: http://www.nea.gov/about/NEARTS/2012_v2/index.html.

"As North Carolina's Poet Laureate, I'm in the position to not only make something meaningful happen here in North Carolina but to ensure that our veterans are connected to opportunities in North Carolina and nationally," Bathanti said.

Below is the poem, Saint Francis's Satyr Butterfly. News outlets can arrange interviews and a reading with Joseph Bathanti, based on availability. To arrange, please contact Rebecca Moore at (919) 807-6530.

Note: Saint Francis's Satyr, a rare, endangered butterfly, exists exclusively in a 10x10 kilometer, high artillery impact zone within the confines of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina

Saint Francis's Satyr Butterfly

All creatures have the same source as we have.
—Saint Francis of Assisi

A reclusive small brown butterfly,
white and yellow stigmatic suns

deployed along its wing ridges,
Saint Francis's Satyr – christened

after the 12th century Italian soldier
and POW turned mystic –

secretes itself, miraculously,
in 10 by 10 kilometers

of the 251 square mile brash
of Fort Bragg – exact coordinates classified –

beyond which – we know this much –
it has gone undetected. Shy, endangered,

preferring anonymity, it hides
in high artillery impact domains –

life often chooses death –
the fires triggered by bombardment.

It wears Marsh camouflage,
resembles in its favored habitat –

blasted sedge and beaver ruins –
a tiny standard issue

Advanced Combat Helmet.
Parsed from the chrysalis,

rent too soon from its dream of living,
the satyr blazes in desperate glory

but three or four days,
in its imaginal stage,

then tenders its life in writ sacrifice.
Its gorgeous numbers dwindle.

The caterpillar has never been seen.
We accept, on faith, metamorphosis.

Joseph Bathanti

 

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