The Tenant of Fire (Paperback)

Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)

By Ryan Black

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822965909, 85pp.

Publication Date: September 10, 2019

List Price: 17.00*
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Winner of the 2019 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

The Tenant of Fire is about Queens, NY—its history, public and personal, real and imagined. Many of the people who populate this book—Irish Catholics, Italian-Americans—were 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. 

Praise For The Tenant of Fire: Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)

Ryan Black has written poems of enormous urgency for our time: at once a blistering critique of racism and xenophobia in America, and an equally blistering critique of the high- and middle-brow condescensions that sequester us all in cultural spheres that might as well be holding cells. . . . In a dark time, mindfulness and generous connection are the only possible recourse. Death of a Nativist gives me heart.
—Linda Gregerson, from her Introduction to his chapbook Death of a Nativist

“Plenty of poems are written about Manhattan and Brooklyn but not many about the outer boroughs of New York City. Ryan Black's excellent poems grow from his experience of south Queens, a place of varied ethnicity and economic classes, and such landmarks as Victory Field and Forest Park. That’s to say:  a part of the City unknown to most tourists.”—Ed Ochester