Following in the path of his acclaimed collections The Book of Interfering Bodies and In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy, Daniel Borzutzky returns to confront the various ways nation-states and their bureaucracies absorb and destroy communities and economies. InThe 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.
Over the course of several volumes, Borzutzky (In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy) has been writing "a bedtime story for the end of the world." Simultaneously sparkling and abject, the apocalyptic tale does not reflect an imagined dystopia but very real crises of migration, state violence, and staggering inequity. This is one of contemporary poetry's most cogent documents of humanity and suffering in the 21st century, one born out of an impossible but necessary struggle to reconcile existence with destruction, excess with deprivation, and alienation with proximity. The borders Borzutzky describes and problematizes include "the invisible line between one civilization and another" as well as the liminal terrain between surreal nightmare and stark reality, which these poems inhabit. Borzutzky refuses the constructed innocence by which "my ignorance keeps me from being implicated in the system in which I am involucrated." And yet, "we do not understand why we are paid or beaten or loved" and "we do not understand our relationship one body to another." For Borzutzky, there is a choice: "Our silent faces stuck together// Or:// The broken testimony of the broken beat in the broken rhythm of the crumbling excesses of my broken face in the crumbling cadaver of this night." Borzutzky's work is a remarkable testament to the latter.