The ugly music of our own moment resonates, stark and dissonant, in the very first line of Daniel Borzutzky’s latest poetry collection ... This mixture of visceral horror and authoritative detachment—not conventionally lyrical—feels disturbingly familiar, epitomizing the tone of what Borzutzky calls 'the blankest of times.' ... Sentence structures replicate almost mechanically across long, prose-like lines, evoking the roteness of modern evil: systemic murder is subsumed into a daily churn of business as usual, reduced to anecdotes—memes, even—that may go viral but soon recede into the feed ... Borzutzky follows in a long tradition of challenging the notion that art should ennoble the experience of oppression ... Borzutzky situates a single, close-to-home catastrophe—the attack on his own congregation—within a constellation of American atrocity: abuses against migrants at the border, the habitual slaying of Black people by cops, the covid-19 pandemic that has disproportionately devastated marginalized communities. Instead of preserving current events in stone monuments, Borzutzky handles history as liquid, the past a wave forever crashing into the present.
Borzutzky’s language reflects the politics of his content; he is a contemporary poet of the lyric. His poems are spoken. He employs an open field of referents that expands outwards. Themes emerge within the field, folds. The poet’s voice has echoes of Waldman and Olson ... It’s essentially a way of working through the violence that’s persistent today, while still trying to acknowledge a specific terrible act of violence ... And he argues that social movements that value the liberation of Black, Brown, and Jewish people work to liberate the broader society. Valuing human lives is the first step to becoming a less violent society. This collection is part of an expanding practice. It’s critical and ambitious, most damning in its understatement and reflection.
Part elegy, part protest, Borzutzky’s writing doesn’t 'worry about the wound the poem must fit neatly into today.' Rather, he offers a panoramic and formally various investigation of the evils of capitalism, imperialism, and white supremacy ... Above all, these pages capture the pain of being alive, and the reality that it is 'the living who are dying of so much living,' as they endure loss, debt, anxiety, and fear ... Borzutzky captures the endless and ordinary pain of life in America ... Borzutzky’s arresting writing sings and stuns as it addresses difficult, painful truths.