Alan Michael Parker, Professor of English and Davidson's Director of Creative Writing, has won the 2012 North Carolina Book Award, also known as the Roanoke-Chowan Award, for the best collection of poetry for his most recent work, Long Division.
Also, at Fall Convocation recently, Parker was named as the new Douglas C. Houchens Professorship, named in honor of the founding professor of Davidson's art department who worked at the college from 1953 until 1978.
Long Division is Parker's seventh collection of poems and was selected from what judges called "a strong and competitive list" of fourteen nominees. In Long Division, Parker writes on many topics including love, math, and the mundane.
"I'm interested in exploring the relationships between math and language," shares Parker. "That relationship provides entry into the conceptual problems the poems pose."
Parker also believes that what we choose to see in the quotidian is important. "I aspire to live with attentiveness," Parker says "and, generally, I think poems can teach us to do that."
Nominees were evaluated on creativity, imaginative quality, excellence of style, universality of appeal, and relevance to North Carolina and its people. Tupelo Press, Long Division's publishing company, nominated the book, which was chosen as winner by a three-judge panel. The panel included an officer from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association and faculty members from two other North Carolina colleges or universities.
Parker responded to the news of his win "with great surprise!.... It is an honor. We have wonderful poets in this state, and many of them had terrific books this year."
Parker is the sixtieth poet to receive the Roanoke-Chowan Award since it was established in 1953. Previous honorees include current North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate Emeritus Randall Jarrell, novelist and poet Reynolds Price, and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg. Also nominated was If Words Could Save Us by Davidson's Dana Professor Emeritus of English Tony Abbott. "I'm in very fine company indeed," commented Parker, when reflecting on past winners. "When someone comes along and says 'This is the best book of the year in the state,' that puts gas in the tank for the next journey. For me, it's mostly about the next book. The compulsion to write includes the compulsion to be a better writer."
Ruth Moose, a fellow North Carolina poet, will present Parker with the Roanoke-Chowan silver cup at the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association's 112th meeting on November 16.
Long Division includes forty-one poems, and has been in the works since 2006. All the while Parker has been teaching and working on other publications. His forthcoming novel, The Committee on Town Happiness, will be published in 2014. He's also working on another collection of poems, a collection of essays, and a fourth co-edited volume.
Parker has published six previous collections and three novels, and he's served as editor for three volumes of scholarship. His poems have appeared in a plethora of publications including The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, and The New Republic. His poem "Family Math" appeared in The Best American Poetry of 2011 and was awarded a Pushcart Prize.