Author(s): Daniel Borzutzky
Winner of the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry, Daniel Borzutzky's new collection of poetry, The Performance of Becoming Human, draws hemispheric connections between the US and Latin America, specifically touching upon issues relating to border and immigration policies, economic disparity, political violence, and the disturbing rhetoric of capitalism and bureaucracies. To become human is to navigate these borders, including those of institutions, the realities of over- and under-development, and the economies of privatization, in which humans endure state-sanctioned and systemic abuses. Borzutzky, whose writing Eileen Myles has described as "violent, perverse, and tender" in its portrayal of "American and global horror," adds another chapter to a growing and important compilation of work that asks what it means to a be both a unitedstatesian and a globalized subject whose body is "shared between the earth, the state, and the bank."
Boston Review: A relentlessly and unapologetically brutal vision at the center of which is the human body being violated, maimed, tortured, exploited, judged, imprisoned, surveilled, and otherwise unjustly controlled. The voice of the speaker moves from moment to moment through that of a refugee, a migrant worker, a child laborer, a prisoner, a dissident, a victim of racism or "ethnic cleansing," a victim of police brutality, a victim of rape, a victim of corporate profiteering. Bustle: The Performance of Becoming Humanis an edgy and sometimes-violent collection about how politics destroy people, how systemic and economic violence destroys communities, and how humans are defined by-and in spite of-the borders they face. Vox: The repetitive clauses and the bloody images build upon each other relentlessly, creating a world in which we are all complicit and from which there is no escape and no redemption. The Performance of Becoming Humanis not an easy book to read, but it is a powerful one. American Microreviews & Interviews: Borzutzky's poetry is part Orwellian nightmare and part politicized call to arms regarding the very real state of the world. The bodies in his collection are bordered. They are have been conquered and militarized. They have been dumped into gulags to fester [...] Borzutzky manages to instill a hope in his readers that although we remain trapped in our putrid and failing bodies, we, too, will succeed in our spiritual mission to persevere. Your Impossible Voice: Borzutzky is not the first person to direct our attention to liminal spaces. Yet the spaces he draws attention to have an imminent exigency. This book is of our times and for our times. One hopes the exigency will diminish; one suspects it won't. Perhaps such examination will allow our social wounds to form smooth, silvery scars before they become gangrenous. Luna Luna: Daniel Borzutzky makes writing about bureaucratic nation-states interesting. We, as the reader, observe communities utterly destroyed, and we are left to question why and how and why and how humans let this happen. In particular, the bay of Valparaiso merges into the western shore of Lake Michigan, which exemplifies the horrors that happen on American soil and international soil alike-and how they are connected-and drawing the lines between the personal and political poignantly. This is a collection not to miss. The Brooklyn Rail: What I loved best was the volume's secret insistence that we should not think of it as a typical book of discrete poems, presented in that all-too-familiar scroll show of a poet's various secretions, pressed down onto a series of microscope slides. No, there is something more, some controlling arc or vision. Center for Literary Publishing: The book, with its unflinching look at our corporatized lives and its condemning critique of the poet's role in it, makes a serious charge. We can choose for ourselves how to answer-but we each must answer. decomP: Borzutzky is aware that "creative consultants waiting to turn this misery into poetry" are always waiting in the wings. This is in keeping with the broader Orwellian inversions and distracting gimcracks of the late capitalist police state he describes, where we sext and Skype and surf the experiences of others far away as authorities instruct us when to laugh and when to applaud. The dystopia here results from the very juxtaposition that is the hope of those migrants dying of thirst in the desert: a world of lack versus a world of absurdly overflowing plenty; a world numb-drunk on accumulated resources versus a world heightened in awareness by its own starvation. But that already romanticizes and reduced; Borzutzky is too clever, in any case, to speak for those who lack."