University of Pittsburgh
November 16, 2016

Pitt Alumnus Wins National Book Award for Poetry

Squirrel Hill native Daniel Borzutzky has been honored with the nation’s most prestigious literary award for his book The Performance of Becoming Human
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PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh alumnus Daniel Borzutzky has won the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry. Given by the National Book Foundation, the prestigious honor was presented this evening at the 67th annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City.Mr. Daniel Borzutzky

Widely considered the nation’s highest literary honor, the National Book Award recognizes outstanding works by U.S. citizens who have published the winning title within the last calendar year. The award is bestowed annually in the fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature categories. Winners are granted a $10,000 prize and a bronze sculpture.

This year’s award in poetry recognizes The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016). Composed of 17 new poems, the book makes cultural, historical, and social connections between the United States and Latin America. The collection specifically touches upon issues related to border and immigration policies, economic disparities, political violence, and political rhetoric.

“When I wrote this book, I was thinking about Chicago, a city I’ve lived in for nearly 20 years and care for very deeply. I was The Performance of Becoming Human, Book Coverthinking of how Chicago destroys itself, abolishes public services, closes psychiatric hospitals, privatizes or shutters its public schools, and militarizes its police,” said Borzutzky, who is of Chilean ancestry. “I was thinking about how Chicago is like the Chile my parents left behind in the 1970s, which destroyed itself in many of the same ways. I was thinking about immigrants, refugees, and workers in the U.S. and abroad who give up their lives to survive in economies that exploit them and make them invisible.”

A native of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Borzutzky’s work has been described as humorous and satirical towards political figures and contemporary culture. In addition to The Performance of Becoming Human, he has published three full-length volumes of poetry: In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat Books, 2015), The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat Books, 2011), and The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVOX, 2007). In addition, he has translated four books of Chilean poetry, including Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia (2016) and Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks (2015).

Borzutzky is a faculty member within the Department of English for the Wilbur Wright College of the City Colleges of Chicago, where he teaches courses in composition, creative writing, and literature. His work has been supported by the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pen/Heim Translation Fund. Borzutzky earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy at Pitt in 1997.

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Mr. Daniel Borzutzky

The Performance of Becoming Human, Book Cover