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Best of the Best: Prof’s Poem Selected for Popular Anthology

Alan Michael Parker"Candying Mint," a poem by Alan Michael Parker, Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English, was selected to be published in Best American Poetry 2015.

David Lehman, a poet and editor, began the Best American Poetry series in 1988 to feature each year's most extraordinary new poems and writers. According to the Academy of American Poets, the series remains one of the most popular and best-selling books in the genre.

Each volume features a different guest editor. Poet, writer and filmmaker Sherman Alexie is serving as the 2015 guest editor.

"I am thrilled to have a poem in Best American this year, to be in such fabulous company, and to have had Sherman Alexie choose my work," said Parker. "Poems are such strange and private art-attacks; it's always a wonder when someone else likes them."

"Candying Mint" first appeared in The Carolina Quarterly in 2013.

Parker will be joining about 20 fellow poets for a group reading at the book's launch in New York City in September.

Two Davidson alumni, Rebecca Hazelton '00 and R.S. Gwynn '69, also have poems included in the book.

This year's Best American Poetry anthology is not without controversy, however. Michael Derrick Hudson, a little-known poet, claims to have had his poem "The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve" rejected 40 times before it appeared in a reputable literary journal, Prairie Schooner, submitted under the name "Yi-Fen Chou." When it was then selected to be featured in the book and Hudson revealed his identity, it set off debates about diversity and racial nepotism in the poetry world.

Responding on the Best American Poetry blog, Alexie stated he was "practicing a form of literary justice that can look like injustice from a different angle. And vice versa."

Awards and Recognition

This is the second time Parker's work has been included in Best American Poetry. His prose was also featured in the 2011 volume.

In addition, Parker's work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Pleiades and The Yale Review, among other magazines. It has also appeared in journals such as The Believer, The New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker. He is a three-time recipient of The Pushcart Prize, and his prose was also honored in Best American Essays.

Parker has written three novels, Cry Uncle, Whale Man and The Committee on Town Happiness (Dzanc Books, 2014), along with eight collections of poems: Days Like Prose, The Vandals, Love Song with Motor Vehicles, A Peal of Sonnets, Elephants and Butterflies, Ten Days (with painter Herb Jackson), Long Division and The Ladder (Tupelo Press, forthcoming in 2016).

Parker has taught at Davidson since 1998. He was promoted to full professor in 2007 and named Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English in 2012. He also teaches in the University of Tampa Low-Residency M.F.A program, where he works with graduate student writers in both poetry and fiction.