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Austin Peay State University announces winners of 2020 Zone 3 First Book Award in Poetry


APSU's Zone 3 PressClarksville, TN – The Austin Peay State University (APSU) Zone 3 Press recently announced the co-winners of its 2020 First Book award in Poetry.

Judge Paige Lewis selected East Walnut Hills: A Gothic Epic by Emily Spencer and For Daughters Who Walk Out Like Sons by Komal Mathew. The books will be published in fall 2021.

2020 Zone 3 First Book Award in Poetry announced. (APSU)

Regarding For Daughters Who Walk Out Like Sons, Lewis writes that Mathew “presents us with a speaker obsessed not just with leaving home, but with being welcomed upon return: ‘The first time I heard / the story of the prodigal son, / I was in college and always jealous.’

“The poems in this collection are filled with questions about the journey: How can a woman be certain of her safety in such a dangerous world? Is it possible to return to open arms? ‘Who could / trust the future with a past like that?’

“In this stunning book, Mathew lists the dangers that await us in the open world, and she shows us why it’s still worth exploring.” 

Lewis was equally taken with Spencer’s manuscript: “In East Walnut Hills, the divine and the everyday are indistinguishable from one another. Eden is both mythically untouchable and just down the street in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Emily Spencer leads us through these poems as if through the wings of a living museum, imploring us to take our time and look—really look. But Spencer is not our tour guide, she is the artist. She has created an entire world within this book of poems. She has drawn it all ‘in straight black lines.’” 

The Zone 3 Press First Book Award in Poetry is biennial and will run again in 2022. The Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award will be open for submissions on January 1st, 2021. Both of the contests will be posted on

Zone 3 is a nationally distributed literary journal published twice a year by the Austin Peay State University Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts. 

Finalists for the 2020 First Book Award in Poetry

  • Age of Broken Honey by Theodosia Henney (Runner-up)
  • The Birthday of the Dead by Rachel Abramowitz
  • Pulsations by John Bonanni
  • Hover by Lisa Flum
  • A Fresh Start Will Put You on Your Way by Andie Francis
  • Where Will I Find America? by Tamer Mostafa
  • Woman with the Blue Guitar by Susan Sample


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