Completely Subjective: Alan Michael Parker’s “Family Math”

Published in the Spring of 2010, Alan Michael Parker’s well-known “Family Math” has become a mysterious puzzle for me to figure out. Throughout Parker’s career, he has written eight collections of poems and three novels. Parker has been working at Davidson College since 1988 as a professor in creative writing.

As I flipped through the 2011 edition of Best American Poetry, I came across and was intrigued by the title “Family Math.” Despite a confusing title, my interest continued. The title grabbed my attention because “math” is my favorite subject in school (and always has been) and my “family” is very important to me. However, the two words together did not make much sense to me. I could not put together what “family math” even was. It was because of this that I made my decision. This is the poem was the poem I was going to figure out.

Alan Michael Parker has a creative way of expressing his thoughts and ideas. Parker encourages his readers to read his poetry more than once because each of his poems has a deeper meaning that is always tough to figure out. Parker is a professional creative writer, which is apparent in his complex style of writing. He puzzles his readers, just like he puzzled me with “Family Math.” Parker incorporates “math” and numbers by interestingly connecting them to his personal life. For example, he relates his age to his family, including his father, wife, and memorable moments before his child was born which takes place within the birth room.

Although every piece of information that we learn about Alan Michael Parker throughout this life leads back to his personal experiences, it seems as if everything connects back to his age. Parker is currently around fifty-five years old, but during his “family math” he comes across as very elderly as he looks back upon many of his past experiences. The importance of his past is shared throughout this poem and he makes it very clear that “all the math will change again” (Parker 88). The math is always “changing” just as people are always dying. In other words, there are people that have “more to let go” of their lives, or are being “subtracted” from the world.

While reading this poem, I felt a connection to it because it made me ponder what my life is going to be like when I am his age. It also made me think about what I might write about from my past if I were in Alan Michael Parker’s position?

Looking back at my elementary and pre school days, I have a couple of memorable moments playing in my head. However, there is a lot that I do not remember. It is important to be able to look back at memories from good times during your early life because there times that people share experiences and you can make something of your old memories.

Parker focuses on many different memories throughout his poem. I think that the most significant memory is the idea of how everything is always changing. Something is different almost everyday. Parker emphasizes “night” versus “day”.4362414729_3a544f36c6_bThe last three stanzas of “Family Math” stimulated an experience I had had on one of my least favorite days of 2013. It was a regular day at school and everything was going completely fine until my eyes captured my best friend Charlotte sprinting towards me as if something miserable had just happened to her. “I am moving! I am moving!” Charlotte continued to screech in my ear as I shoved my textbook into my locker. It was the moment that I found out that my best friend since we were three was officially moving to South Carolina. She was going to be eleven hours and thirty five minutes away. I felt as if I was never going to see her again. Nothing was going to be the same. This was a moment of change that I did not want to have to experience. But I had no choice.

Alan Michael Parker’s “Family Math” was a poem that I not only enjoyed reading, but it evoked many memories and allowed me to look back at old experiences that have changed my life. I would like to thank Alan Michael Parker for that. In comparison to “Family Math,” I was unable to connect my experiences through numbers, but I was able to bring back unforgettable moments throughout Parker’s impression of aged times.

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