Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018

Coffee House. Mar. 2021. 120p. ISBN 9781566895996. $21.95.
For the past decade, National Book Award winner Borzutzky has been one of our boldest, most confrontational poets, and little of that has changed in his provocatively titled new collection. The title specifically refers to the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but Borzutzky never cites it by name, speaking instead to the violent rhetoric and capitalist institutions that facilitate such hate-fueled tragedies: “I won’t worry about the wound the poem must fit neatly into today.” His mode remains much the same here as before: blunt language repeats but creates new contexts in each poem, and his textual echoes become both thesis and mantra. Borzutzky saturates his poems with a mix of brutal imagery and economic jargon, understanding state capital and the human body as inextricably linked, the two literally bleeding into each other. This collection’s structuring isn’t as cleanly executed as in previous effort Lake Michigan, but Borzutzky is still an essential poetic voice, one who understands the form not for its penchant for nuance but for its ability to generate immense power and express profound anger with, ironically, economy.
VERDICT Borzutzky’s heavily political work wades in our collective human muck, and he continues to defy poetry expectations, to the form’s benefit.
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