Flyer Profile: Alice Pettway

At this point, you would think the writers at the Flyer would have run out of things to brag on about Fayetteville. But you would be wrong. One more thing that Fayetteville has on the rest of the world is poets. That’s right. Poets. Northwest Arkansas has one of the highest concentrations of poets per capita in the continental United States*.

Why do so many poets make their home in Fayetteville? I don’t know. It could be they fall out of the University of Arkansas’ creative writing program and just decide to live here. Or it could be our inspiring trees, streams and architecture. Have you ever said something like “I’m going to the show, do you want to go?” If you have, you’re a poet and don’t even know it. It’s probably the poeticness of Fayetteville rubbing off on you.

One local poet, Alice Pettway, channeled that poeticness and got herself published. Her chapbook, Barbed Wire and Bedclothes (Spire Press) will hit the shelves sometime in June. In the meantime, you can pre-order your copy and get a signed broadside at a reading/book signing at Nightbird Books on May 30 at 6 pm.

We caught up with Alice and asked her about poetry stuff.

Fayetteville Flyer: Standard first FF interview question: what are listening to lately?
Alice Petway: Fleet Foxes, Fruit Bats, Lucinda Williams, Radiohead, Pixies, Sufjan Stevens, lots of others too, but those come to mind first.

FF: What can people expect from Barbed Wire and Bedclothes?
AP: I like to think of the poems in Barbed Wire and Bedclothes as mutineers with day jobs; there’s nothing exotic in the book, really. The poems rebel against the sharp edges of everyday life and, I hope, challenge the reader to conquer the familiar wounds in pursuit of something extraordinary.

FF: Who are some of your favorite poets out there right now?
AP: Of course, I always turn back to the old standards like Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Denise Levertov. As for people writing currently, I recently discovered Philip Appleman’s incredible work. Miller Williams and Jo McDougall are staples on my bookshelf.

FF: What the eff is a chapbook? How is that different than a regular book?
AP: It’s just a short book, usually under 30 pages.

FF: Free verse poems are cool, but have you ever considered limericks?
AP: Early in my career I realized I wasn’t good enough to write limericks. It saddens me that I haven’t been able to master this complicated form, but I have hopes that in the future I may achieve the limericky pinnacle of poetry.

FF: For all the people reading this who want to get a book published, what’s the secret? How did you do it?
AP: Piles and piles of rejection slips.

FF: What’s next?
AP: Mauritania! 27 months with the Peace Corps as a teacher trainer.

For more, you can also find a selection of Alice Pettway’s poems in Nashville’s Keyhole Magazine Issue 7 which is available now.

*There is absolutely no statistical information to support this claim, and it is probably, in all likelihood, false.