The Arsonist's Letters

The Arsonist's Letters

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    ISBN 9781954780170
    110 pages
    6 x 9 inches
    Publisher: Backlash Press
    Published: 12/15/2021

Comprised of poetry written over the course of more than two decades, Michael Tyrell's The Arsonist's Letters reckons with a radically changing landscape, where "infestations of coincidence" overlap with "reflective/ tricks and rungless ladders," and increased surveillance meets the threat of looming extinction. Throughout, memorable historical and contemporary figures emerge: a cousin mistaken for the abducted Lindbergh child; a boy who must make a bargain to keep from starving in Mussolini's Italy; "children […] / who swear live inside them /the entire populations of small countries." Including moving elegies for a dying mother and poems that puzzle over difficult family secrets, the collection also stands as a paean to correspondence itself, celebrating not only the near-lost art of letter writing but the spiritual necessity of the written message: "You carry an unsent card in your coat like immunity papers/ from one ruined place to another / where it is, at least, somehow, / always spring."

About the Author

Michael Tyrell is the author of The Wanted (National Poetry Review, 2012) and Phantom Laundry (Backlash, 2017) and, with Julia Spicher Kasdorf, edited Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn (NYU Press, 2007). His poems have appeared in Agni, The Best American Poetry, The Iowa Review, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, and many other publications. A native of Brooklyn, he teaches at New York University.


"In Michael Tyrell's captivating new collection, The Arsonist's Letters, his familiar voice—nimble-witted, funny, skeptical but with an eye out for come what may—has developed new registers. These poems wander the city, as well as the fringes of memory and the ruins of the past, the poet's and our own. His intriguing family history preoccupies this book in new ways, a history he explores with an anatomist's curiosity. That curiosity is a constant in these poems, along with an avid love of culture, high to low, and a particularly keen interest in cinema. (You have to wonder about his obsession with crime; maybe we don't want to know.) With this third volume, his riskiest and most accomplished yet, Michael Tyrell steps into his own." - Daniel Hall, author of Under Sleep, Strange Relation, and Hermit with Landscape

 "Michael Tyrell's poetry feels at once as familiar and intimate as memory, and as strange and cinematic as a dream. With The Arsonist's Letters, he's crafted a word-world inhabited by time, place, art, and grief. This isn't a collection you read; it's one you step inside of." - Joe Vallese, editor of What’s Your Exit? A Literary Detour Through New Jersey and It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror Films