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Austin Peay remembers David Till: co-founder of Zone 3 and advocate for creative writing

By: February 15, 2024

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Professor Emeritus David Till, one of the original faculty members responsible for proposing the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University, passed away last week at his home in Clarksville. Co-founder of Zone 3 literary journal, Till’s book Oval was the inaugural book published by Zone 3 Press. 

On Till’s legacy, alumnus Jeff Hardin says: “Real and lasting education took place in Dave’s office during our countless conversations. He had more epiphanies than most people, epiphanies in the middle of epiphanies. He had a way of taking a thread of an idea and following it to a place you couldn’t predict and didn’t want to leave. His voice was a kind of home—inviting, full of endless rooms.”

Alongside faculty from across the arts at Austin Peay, Till was integral to the establishment of CECA in 1985. As CECA approaches its 40th anniversary, we reflect on those faculty who played such important roles. For Creative Writing, that impact includes Zone 3 and the establishment of a visiting writers’ series. Retired professor Barry Kitterman, Till’s colleague of thirty years, says that “Dave Till and Malcolm Glass had built a writing program that served our students first, but one that also fed colleagues and the whole campus.”

Kitterman remembers that Till invited poets like Robert Bly, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti to speak on campus, establishing a high standard for the visiting writers’ series from its inception. Kitterman states: “He was a meticulous editor in the days of print journals, laying the magazine out in hard copy and worrying over every detail, which poem spoke to the next poem. And he was a memorable teacher.”

Till’s influence continues to resonate at APSU—each incoming group of writers and readers is shaped by his legacy. In 2018 the Department of Languages & Literature established the David Till Award for Exceptional Writing, a prize awarded to students during the department’s annual spring picnic. Arizona Hurn, a past recipient of the David Till Award, says, “Professor Till was part of the family I found when I got to college—a community I was lucky enough to join.”

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