Ryan Black of Jackson Heights, NY is the 2018 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. The University of Pittsburgh Press and Pitt Poetry Series will published his collection, “The Tenant of Fire” in fall 2019. Black will also receive a $5,000 cash prize.
In explaining his inspiration behind the collection, Black states:
“Kirk Semple, a New York Times metro reporter, described Queens, NY, as a “petri dish for what our increasingly diverse and heterogeneous nation is becoming.” The Tenant of Fire is about Queens—its history, both public and personal, real and imagined—and mines the complex, often contradictory, lived experience of diversity. Many of the people who populate this book—Irish Catholics, Italian-Americans—were once themselves considered ethnic but now fall wholly under the banner of white. Their anxieties collect from the past and inform their future. It is from these same anxieties that a man like Donald Trump emerges. Born and raised in Queens, Trump defies the implicit hope articulated by Semple.
In our current political climate, where the plurality of a place like Queens is viewed as a threat to national security, The Tenant of Fire attempts to reckon honestly with our shared histories. The young, white speaker whose perspective these poems often take, works to record his parents’ and neighbors’, his mentors’, his peers’, both white and of color, as well as his own attempts at navigating this landscape.”
Black is the author of Death of a Nativist, winner of the 2016 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship, selected by Linda Gregerson.
He has published previously or has work forthcoming in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Blackbird, Ninth Letter, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He has also received fellowships from the Adirondack Center for Writing, The Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Queens Council on the Arts.
Black is the director of undergraduate creative writing at Queens College.
The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize is a national literary award for a first full-length book of poetry in the English language. Initiated by Ed Ochester and developed by Frederick A. Hetzel, the prize is named for a former director of the University of Pittsburgh Press.