In his seventh poetry collection, Alan Michael Parker aims to surprise. Recombining lists, fables, and mathematical equations, Long Division
is formally playful, wielding irony as a lever of political resistance. Here is a writer fascinated by comedy, by sadness, and by the unexpected ways that poetry makes both possible at once. When was the last time you laughed out loud reading poems? Parker’s new work is truly funny, exposing the impossibility of realism in a world where imagination is more trustworthy than experience.
Alan Michael Parker possesses a mind completely unlike any poet at work in America today, finding in the clutter around us not just sources of sadness, wit, and playful irony--but also profound ambivalence about a world in which our past is not recoverable, in which the work of the mind upon the landscape is the true source of meaning, in which we all inhabit 'the arc of Story graphed upon the axes of Love and Death.' I have long considered Parker to be one of the most brilliant poets at work in America today. Long Division, his best book yet, confirms that.
Alan Michael Parker, in style and in stance ('Sadness remains my politics,' he writes), demonstrates that wit and irony have much more to offer us than we've known. In one masterful poem after another composed with luminous attention to the poetic line, Parker conducts the long divisions toward reconciliation between contentment and the necessity of asking more from ourselves, each other, and the world. He assures us our redemption, but proves that it requires the cunning and exuberance only a poet of his talent can muster for the rest of us. I feel blessed by these poems in Long Division, the work of a poetic troubleshooter intent on spreading grace on everything before him.
Winner, 2012 North Carolina Book Award, Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry
Finalist, 2013 UNT Rilke Prize
Tupelo Press is pleased to provide the Long Division Reader’s Companion
in free, downloadable PDF format. Click the link to download. (209k)
from Poetry, Inc.
Copy and shred, we animals feed the machines
until the coffee cart comes by at 10,
the urn glowing like religion.
Is your password your birthday?
Copy and shred, we make history.
Whatever we imagine we imagine as money:
copy and shred, shred and copy.
Look out the window: beauty.
Now place one hand on the glass.
Now sell what you feel.
Too many words, too many words,
too many words, too many words[...]
While the language of Long Division is candid and conversational, the poems have a smoothly loping, considerate force. Parker is a master at coaxing the enormous from his misleadingly uncomplicated conceits. He “scouts” images (and concepts) for their poetic potential—and the way they bloom is proof to the reader of poetry’s inherent possibility everywhere.
—Joshua Kleinberg, Heavy Feather Review
I get excited. Although I read and love long verse, dramatic verse, and prose poems, my expectation for the poem I’m about to read is that of the terse, lineated poem. Needless to say, the poem as list structure does not meet my expectation, but I mean that in the best way possible. My stagnant way of thinking about poetry is being challenged, and I like it.
—Christopher Prewitt, Rattle
The title of Alan Michael Parker’s seventh collection leads me to a silly and bitter awareness of how long it has been since I performed division by hand. I can recall the symbols and know it’s really just a matter of reverse-engineering my multiplication tables. I’m a die-hard analog watch-wearer (so, you know...), but it’s been so many years that I feel clumsy and frustrated as I try to figure a simple math problem alongside my notes for this review. In this way, and by dint of the poems themselves, Long Division also engages the more abstract practice of figuring how many ways a life can be divided, how many ways the attention can bifurcate, how over time people and places and practices fade as new drags on preference take hold, remoras (Roombas?) that add to the clutter instead of cleaning up.
— Jacob A. Bennett, Phantom Limb
Alan Michael Parker makes me a liar. I love things about Parker I fault in other poets. Parker’s voice is so singular and strong that I don’t question it, even when it relies on wit, and in return, Parker rewards me for following him when I least expect it.
— Joey Connelly, The Rumpus
The take-out menus in the lobby are so sleepy,/ they are so sore, they have swum oceans,” begins one poem in Parker’s sixth collection, endowing voice and pathos to the familiar ephemera clogging our nation’s porches and foyers. This gesture of compassionate attention to the marginal, humble pieces of a common life—a bench in a hospital garden, a rusted-out car on blocks—runs through Parker’s book, which draws on a range of formal registers in the process. (Some repeated forms include letters, numbered lists—e.g., “Sixteen Ways Old People Terrify the Young”—and quasi-fables.) At stake is how to reconcile the love, pleasure, and retrospective cast of a middle-aged mind with the less-thoughtful era of mercantile zoomburbs in which we find ourselves (a “zoomburb”? A “suburb growing even faster than a boomburb,” we learn). Here are also reflections on anniversaries, Italian opera, domestic life and its errant desires, third marriages, and fatherhood. The book’s best poems balance skepticism about the rituals of aging with the speaker’s participation in them. “My New American Lawn” thumbs its nose at the signifiers of lawn maintenance and suburban life, yet the poem also finds a well of urgency in “the crunchy, crispy, breakable/ blades.
— Publishers Weekly