New from Backwaters Press

The following book is the 2020 Backwaters Prize in Poetry winner and will be available this fall from our imprint, Backwaters Press.

Long Rules by Nathaniel Perry

A book-length poem in six sections, Long Rules takes readers to five Trappist monasteries in the southeastern United States to consider the intersections of solitude, family, music, and landscape. Its lines unspool in a loose and echoing blank verse that investigates monastic rules, sunlight, Saint Basil, turnips, Thomas Merton, saddle-backed caterpillars, John Prine, fatherhood, and everything in between. Looking inside and outside the self, Perry asks, what, or whom, are we serving? Winner of the Backwaters Prize in Poetry, this essay in verse contemplates the meaning of solitude and its contemporary ramifications in a time of uncertainty.


A remarkable addition to the company of book-length, broadly inclusive poems like James McMichael’s Four Good Things and C. S. Giscombe’s Giscome Road. . . . In blank verse that is flexible and assured, the poet’s attention runs the gamut from Saint Basil to Willie Nelson, from dulcimer acoustics to the caterpillars that eat his blueberry plants. The voice here is neighborly, its pacing exquisite. Perry’s rich meditation on nature, community, and the different forms of love brims with music and insight.

Don Bogen, author of Immediate Song

With one of the greatest opening lines for a book ever, ‘Listen, child of God, to Willie Nelson,’ Long Rules is a joy to read. It calls itself an essay in verse, following a steady form so effortlessly you half forget it’s not just an essay. And the skill in putting these poems together is amazing to experience as a reader. The poet teaches about theology and contemplation through musings on songwriters and musicians, making centuries-old thoughts seem at home with us today.

Matt Mason, state poet of Nebraska

Nathaniel Perry’s Long Rules is a gentle doctrinal essay exploring the mystery by which collectivity authors solitude and prayer invents the world. . . . Long Rules is so profound and beautiful that, but for the casual asides to the reader and references to contemporary singers, I would half think it was the lost work of some wise soul from the deep past.

Jennifer Moxley, author of Druthers and The Open Secret

Publication date: November 1, 2021

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