North Carolina has named a Pittsburgh native as the state's next poet laureate.
Joseph Bathanti, 59, grew up in East Liberty and graduated from Central Catholic High School and the University of Pittsburgh.
"It's an incredibly humbling honor. It's really, really hard to believe," Mr. Bathanti said. "It's something I didn't expect. It's pretty dreamy."
Mr. Bathanti is a professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., and the author of several books of poetry, two novels -- "East Liberty" and "Coventry" -- and one book of short stories.
"Joseph's work is accessible because he writes about topics that touch all of us: family, home and personal experiences," said Wayne Martin, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council.
He has won numerous awards for his writing, which has been published in journals such as Carolina Quarterly and the Texas Review. He went to North Carolina in 1976 as a volunteer in the Volunteers in Service to America program, where he started teaching writing workshops to prisoners. He has done so since and is the former chair of the North Carolina Writers' Network Prison Project.
He also is director of writing in the field at Appalachian State University and writer-in-residence in the school's Watauga Global Community.
Mr. Bathanti will be installed as poet laureate Thursday during a ceremony at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh.