The Performance of Becoming Human Summary and Reviews

The Performance of Becoming Human

by Daniel Borzutzky

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2016
    98 pages
    Genre: Poetry

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry

Following in the path of his acclaimed collections The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011) and In The Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat, 2015), Daniel Borzutzky returns to confront the various ways nation-states and their bureaucracies absorb and destroy communities and economies. In The Performance of Becoming Human, the bay of Valparaiso merges into the western shore of Lake Michigan, where Borzutzky continues his poetic investigation into the political and economic violence shared by Chicago and Chile, two places integral to his personal formation. To become human is to navigate borders, including the fuzzy borders of institutions, the economies of privatization, overdevelopment, and underdevelopment, under which humans endure state-sanctioned and systemic abuses in cities, villages, deserts.

Borzutzky, whose writing Eileen Myles has described as "violent, perverse, and tender" in its portrayal of a "kaleidoscopic journey of American horror and global horror," adds another chapter to a growing and important compendium 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."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Like any good satirist, Borzutzky considers his subjectivity with the same lens he applies to the systems he critiques, and The Performance of Becoming Human is an apogee of that inquiry. Since The Book of Interfering Bodies, Daniel Borzutzky has been the fabulist we most need because he's unafraid to detail the truth of our oligarchy, without pedantry. In his figurative world our bodies are forced through privatized meat grinders, but funnily in the way that all dark horror stories trigger our gallows humor. I'm thrilled every time Borzutzky brings a book in the world, learn the most about reality from him." - Carmen Giménez Smith

"In this canticle for the age of listicles, Daniel Borzutzky performs a new political poetry in the crucible of 'overdevelopment,' when 'The city has disappeared into the privatized cellar of humanity.' Here, the socially engaged bro-poet is mercifully broken, relieved of his epic monumentality, and with it of a range of foundational fictions (nation/family/language/subject), leaving behind these gut-cantos (songs/fragments), detestimonios of a spectral self, at once buzz-fed and cankerously/cantankerously embodied. (You can't spell 'Neruda' without 'nerd' and Canto General never rocked 'The Gross and Borderless Body.') The ugly majesty of these prose blocks echoes the windswept expanses of neoliberal Chile and Chicago, their dead and their debt, their surrender and struggle. To read 'this book that is a country deposited not in your heart but in your mouth' is to confront becoming human as speech act, as language game, and to know the freedom and the terror of doing so. The painbeauty of Borzutzky's virtuoso, multi- register flow (abject punchlines included) is also a counter-flow to the death drive of capital, sentences for a radical sentience." - Urayoán Noel

"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." - decomP

"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." - American Microreviews & Interviews

"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." - Luna Luna

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Daniel Borzutzky's books and chapbooks include, among others, In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (2015), Bedtime Stories for the End of the World! (2015), Data Bodies (2013), The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011), and The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007). He has translated Raul Zurita's The Country of Planks (2015) and Song for his Disappeared Love (2010), and Jaime Luis Huenun's Port Trakl (2008). His work has been supported by the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pen/Heim Translation Fund. He lives in Chicago.

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