Daniel Borzutzky

Lake Michigan

Griffin Poetry Prize 2019
International Shortlist

Book: Lake Michigan

Poet: Daniel Borzutzky

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press

Click here to read an excerpt.

Daniel Borzutzky

Biography

Daniel Borzutzky is a poet and translator, and the author of The Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry. His other books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy, Memories of My Overdevelopment, and The Book of Interfering Bodies. His translation of Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia won the 2017 National Translation Award. Other translations include Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks and Song for His Disappeared Love, and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl. He lives in Chicago and teaches in the English and Latin American and Latino Studies Departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Judges’ Citation

“Daniel Borzutzky’s Lake Michigan is an elegant and chilling masterpiece of dramatic speech in a tradition of activist, political poetry that encompasses works as diverse as Pablo Neruda’s Canto General and Peter Dale Scott’s Coming to Jakarta: A Poem About Terror. One of the theses embodied in its multiplicity of voices might be said to be that state-sponsored (or state-acquiescent) violence creates ghosts – ghosts who, by continued speaking, come to stand in for the people from whose histories they have been created, people who are therefore never truly dead. Technically brilliant in its use of repetition and variation, leavened with touches of embittered, and yet, in the end, resilient, drollness, Lake Michigan is an eloquent, book-length howl, a piece of political theatre staged in a no-man’s land lying somewhere between the surreal and the real.”

from Lake Michigan, Scene 1

They beat me even though I did nothing

I don’t know what day it was

But they beat me on the beach

They beat me with iron paws

The mayor ordered the police superintendent to beat me

The police superintendent ordered an officer to beat me

The officer ordered his dogs to attack me

Then someone beat me with iron paws

The someone kicked me with iron boots

Then someone shot me

Then someone buried me in the sand

Then someone scooped me out of the sand and dumped me somewhere

And I was dead

But I could feel the sand on my body

I could feel the sand filling my mouth

I could feel the sand in my eyes

There was an earthquake in my eyes

There was a tornado in my mouth

But after the storms passed it was peaceful and I was dead

And they beat me me even though I did nothing

From Lake Michigan by Daniel Borzutzky
Copyright © 2018, Daniel Borzutzky

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