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Nine Acres

  • Selected by Marie Howe from over one thousand submissions,Nine Acresis the winner of theAmerican Poetry Review/APR Honickman First Book Prize. Taking their titles from chapters of a 1930s small-scale farming handbook, the fifty-two poems in this cycle create a handbook for living and explore sustainability on many levels—on the land, in the family, and in the spirit.

    As Marie Howe writes in her introduction to the book, "Nathanial Perry has collected poems into this book as one plants a field, as an act of husbandry: each line a furrow where seeds flourish or fail. Husbandry—to create a dwelling place and to care for it—these are the ancient acts."

    "Soil Surface Management"

    I spent the afternoon breaking
    ground. The tiller bucked and groaned
    at the job, but with each pass I saw
    a perfect blankness, like I'd been loaned
    a second life in which to grow
    a third. The sun sat on its porch
    and smiled. I wondered if the dirt
    would be enough, a kind of torch
    to set inside our lives to say,
    we'll grow our food like this, our plans
    will look like this —like soil squared
    and measured into beds by a man
    sweating through his shirt with effort.
    In dirt is one life we can choose
    to make. I spent the afternoon
    breaking what I knew we'd use.

    Nathaniel Perry lives with his family in rural southside Virginia. He is the editor of theHampden-Sydney Poetry Reviewand teaches at Hampden-Sydney College.

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