Winner of the 2019 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize
The Tenant of Fire is about Queens, NYits history, public and personal, real and imagined. Many of the people who populate this bookIrish Catholics, Italian-Americanswere once considered ethnic but now fall wholly under the banner of white. And from their anxieties a man like Donald Trump emerges. Born and raised in Queens, Trump is both the product and purveyor of a localized nativist politic.
The young white speaker of these poems works to record his parents’ and neighbors’, both white and of color, and his own attempts at navigating a shifting landscape. In poems on the homecoming of Vietnam vets, or the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, or the firebombing of Malcolm X’s house, The Tenant of Fire explores how and why the plurality of a place like Queens, where now nearly two hundred languages are spoken, is viewed as a threat to national security.
About the Author
Ryan Black is the author of Death of a Nativist, winner of the 2016 Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship, selected by Linda Gregerson. He has published previously in AGNI, The Journal, Ninth Letter, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, and elsewhere, and has received fellowships from the Adirondack Center for Writing, The Millay Colony for the Arts, PLAYA, and the Queens Council on the Arts. He is the Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing at Queens College.
Read an Excerpt
Home by the Sea I can’t turn around and put up a flag and say, “I have no place to go.” Chief Dennis Diggins Bureau of Waste Disposal, DSNY From bridge view, from snow-packed rock. Seagirt to West End. The crude signs nailed to garage doors, inked on windshields, Looters will be crucified. November: an Old World threat. A FEMA truck stutters by on a busted axle. Drywall, plumbing, dining set, bureau. Nine days passed. At Fitzgerald Gym, two mothers braid their children’s hair with Vaseline. On state-issued cots below the free throw line.