The Honickman Foundation

2011 APR / Honickman First Book Prize Winner

Nathaniel Perry, Nine Acres

Selected by Marie Howe, Nine Acres by Nathaniel Perry is the winner of the 2011 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize. Perry took the poem titles from chapters of a 1930s farming handbook; likewise, the fifty-two poems in this collection seem to create a manual for living in their exploration of the land, family and 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."

Nathaniel Perry lives with his family in rural south side Virginia. He is the editor of the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review and teaches at Hampden-Sydney College.

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.

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