April 28, 2010 In 1985 at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, professors David Till and Malcolm Glass founded a literary magazine which they called Zone 3, in honor of the temperate growing zone of middle Tennessee. This was a staggeringly hopeful endeavor. Even twenty-five years ago, it was not clear that poetry itself—let alone literary magazines devoted to it—would survive the twentieth century. If cable television hadn’t swamped the little boat of lyric poetry, the coming tsunami not yet known as the Internet surely would.
As usual, reports of the demise of poetry have been grossly exaggerated, and Zone 3 has done more than survive; it has thrived. With the backing of Austin Peay’s Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts—one of the state’s true artistic treasures—Zone 3 has expanded to include short-stories and interviews, as well as poetry. In the process, it has demonstrated to the citizens of the state, particularly to those living outside urban centers, that literature can be home-grown.
“Having come from a small town where poetry was basically nonexistent, I had no clue about current writers and trends,” writes poet Jeff Hardin in an email to Chapter 16. “Zone 3 was, in essence, my introduction to contemporary poetry and to writers whose words have stayed with me for two decades now—writers like George Scarbrough, Bobby Rogers, Albert Goldbarth, Richard Jackson, to name only a few. Zone 3 shaped my understanding of not only what a poem could be about but also what a poem could sound like. Zone 3 gave me another kind of world to envision, one where experience was grounded in thought.”
Hardin—an associate professor of English at Columbia State Community College and the author of Fall Sanctuary, which won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize from Story Line Press in 2004—will be among the poets celebrating tonight at a birthday party for Zone 3. Hardin will join founding editors David Till and Malcolm Glass; current editors Blas Falconer, Barry Kitterman, and Amy Wright; and past contributor Phyllis Gobbell for “Terra Firma,” a reading and broadside exhibition commemorating the journal’s twenty-fifth anniversary. The event at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Library will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and conclude with a book signing by participants. It is free and open to the public.