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Rebecca Newth Harrison is a writer working in Fayetteville (Washington County). Her literary corpus includes six books of poetry, a memoir, and a collection of children’s books. Newth is also the founder of Will Hall Books and an advocate for the arts in northwest Arkansas.
Rebecca Newth was born on September 21, 1940, in Lansing, Michigan, to William Arthur Newth and Catherine Messenger Newth. She is the eldest of four children. Newth’s parents both worked at Michigan State University (MSU), her father as an accountant and her mother as a medical technician. Newth attended MSU, graduating with a BA in English literature in 1962. At MSU, Newth met and married John Harrison, who was pursuing a career in library science. Newth took the Harrison name when she married but continued to publish under her maiden name. The Harrisons had three children.
Between 1962 and 1983, the family lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts; New Haven, Connecticut; and in Crete for six months. Newth wrote and published poems in literary journals during this period. Xeme, her first book of poetry, was published in 1971, and later in that same year, she was awarded a poetry prize from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her second book, A Journey Whose Bones Are Mine, appeared in 1978.
Newth moved to Fayetteville in 1983 and immersed herself in the Fayetteville arts community. Her husband became the dean of libraries at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, and Newth began work toward an MA in English literature there, completing it in 1988. She has taught literature at UA and, as of 2011, teaches writing workshops through the Fayetteville Public School System’s Adult Education program.
Newth has published four more books of poetry: Finding the Lamb (1983), The Oseberg Skiff (1992), Great North Woods (1994), and Walking the Guest Home (2007). She also published the memoir Milk Horses (1998) and, with her husband, a bibliography for New Directions Publishing, Published for James Laughlin: A New Directions List of Publications, 1936–1997 (2008). In 2000, she was awarded a fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council.
Newth founded the nonprofit Will Hall Books in 1995 to support emerging artists. The mission of Will Hall Books has expanded to include children’s literature, chapbooks, and grants to artists. The mission statement reads: “Our philosophy holds that encouragement to authors, photographers, artists, and musicians is essential to the well-being of a civilized world.”
From 1991 to 1998, Newth hosted the radio program Arkansas Voices on Fayetteville’s KUAF public radio station. On the show, Newth interviewed many of the leading writers of Arkansas, including Donald Harington, Skip Hays, Joan Hess, and Miller Williams.
Since 2000, Newth has focused on writing children’s books in both English and Spanish. Her four books for children include: Antonia Quail/La Codoriniz, Antonia (2000), Tikum’s Dog (2004), Mi Abuelita (2008), and The Pass Key (2010). The Pass Key received the Susannah DeBlack Award from the Arkansas Historical Association, an award given to books that introduce young readers to Arkansas history.
For additional information:“Garden of Verses: Rebecca Newth.” Editions Bibliotekos, November 2, 2010. http://www.ebibliotekos.com/2010/11/garden-of-verses-rebecca-newth.html (accessed May 14, 2011).
Newth, Rebecca. Milk Horses: A Memoir. Fayetteville, AR: Lost Creek Press, 1998.
Will Hall Books. http://www.willhallbooks.com/ (accessed June 20, 2011).
Chad PollockFayetteville, Arkansas
Last Updated 1/10/2012
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