Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daniel Borzutzky @ ND

This just-passed Valentine’s Day, Chicago-based Chilean-American poet and translator, Daniel Borzutzky—a palabra pura reader featured at the guild literary complex—kicked-off the 45th edition of the Notre Dame Literary Festival.  The Notre Dame Literary Festival, formerly known as the Sophomore Literary Festival, is “one of the most illustrious and unique of the all the school’s traditions, and one of the most distinguished reading series on any college campus. To begin with, it was almost entirely student-conceived [previous organizers include John Philip Santos—as an undergrad at Notre Dame]…. In the forty years since it began, the festival has brought many giants of the literary world to Notre Dame.  Tom Stoppard, Allen Ginsburg, Jose Luis Borges, Arthur Miller, Gwedolyn Brooks, Czeslaw Milosz…the list goes on" (from 45th Notre Dame Literary Festival program).

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVox, 2007) and Arbitrary Tales (Ravenna Press, 2005). His translations include Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl in 2008 and Raúl Zurita’s Song for his Dissapeared Love in 2010 and both published by Notre Dame’s very own Action Books. Daniel's writings and translations have appeared in numerous anthologies and publications. He lives in Chicago and teaches in the English Department at Wright College.

And keeping up with tradition, this inaugural reading was opened up by a moving and serious and funny poetry reading (“I did it. I touched the art work,” declares a student in a poem written in the voice of a museum curator) by Notre Dame undergraduates and organizers of the festival.  Reading from The Book of Interfering Bodies Daniel opens up his reading with the following epigraph:

“It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing the exercise of imagination.” –The 9/11 Commission Report

In a torrent of music and body parts, Daniel’s poems are a powerful and disturbing parable about bureaucratizing the exercise of the imagination:

“And so as to better understand the future, the bureaucrats, at the beginning
 of the third stanza, memorize Tyger! Tyger! burning bright!

And in the next line the bureaucrats express great empathy for the refugee
boy, who informs the through subliminal messages that he was put on this
earth for no other reason then to suffer.

I am trying to avoid lyricism, the speaker states parenthetically, and hopefully
I have been successful, but I am hindered by the fact that every few lines
or so blood drips from the boy’s stumpy arm into a sonorous puddle of
ghost voices.” 

In this reading of books—many of the poems read were poems titled “the book of …”—books made of flesh and holes and collapsing nations, nothing remains unblemished, not even poetry itself; like the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita scarring his cheek by self-inflicted injury—poetry too is made to suffer the grotesque sociopolitical realities of our times. This is beautiful and repulsive all at once. It begs the question: if political violence is the reality of our times, and if this violence is grotesque why shouldn’t poetry also be immersed in this pain? If violence is a grotesque act of dismembering why shouldn’t poetry also be butchered, and hacked and split on the table?

To read more Borzutzky click here.  

Opening Audience

Undergraduates open with poetry reading.

Daniel Borzutsky reading from his Book of Interfering Bodies

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