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These Hands

poetry by Per Aage Brandt
translated by Thom Satterlee
bilingual Danish/English

7" x 5.5"
183 pages

These Hands is an extraordinary bilingual poetry collection from renowned Danish poet Per Aage Brandt. The uniqueness of this work comes from the uniqueness of the person himself: unlike many other professor-poets, Brandt's academic discipline is not literature but semiotics, a field in which he has authored a dozen books and roughly two hundred and fifty articles. Many of the poems in this collection read like thought-experiments - as if the cognitive scientist made poetry his laboratory and theories his poems. But Brandt's work is also rich with humor and humanity. His poetry has a sense of playfulness and a sense of a personhood - someone behind the poem who doesn't take himself too seriously, even as he addresses profoundly serious subjects such as language, consciousness, and existence, mixing comedy with critique. In this exuberant and sharp-minded collection, Brandt re-sets the limits of language and creates a new kind of verse, prompting one Danish critic to remark that his work "bears more resemblance to a brainwave than a book of poems."

Praise for These Hands:

These tantalizing poems are saturated with love - love for the ungraspable beloved; for the seen world that sight can never grasp; for language, which can grasp nothing but itself although the language of Thom Satterlee's witty and musical translations almost convinces us that the grasping is possible. I have read these poems again and again, in page order and out, and the readings are always rich and fresh.

– John DuVal

This book doubles a reader's delight. Not only do we get Per Aage Brandt's witty, compact, and unerring poems, brisk riffs on experience, consciousness, and the world around us; we also get, across each page, Thom Satterlee's English versions of them, nimbly accomplished, true to the originals, and extremely creative in their own right. Rereading, left-right, left-right, left-right, is not a duty or a puzzlement; it's a steady compounding of insight and pleasure.

– David Young

The chronology is reversed, and you won't know the poem's title till after you reach the last line. These Hands may turn you upside down, but as surely as one of Brandt's cats, you'll land upright. Smart, impish, and spare, Per Aage Brandt finds the physical in the metaphysical, and the fizz in the physiological. Deftly translated from the Danish by Thom Satterlee.

– Joanna Trzeciak

These Hands shows what a true poet-translator can do: bring us, in Per Aage Brandt, a writer whose work is surreal, and playful, and profoundly human all at once - and who arrives like a bracing wind for readers trapped in the loud and crowded confines of contemporary American poetry. Brandt is a master of compression and implication, and Satterlee's triumph here is to give us the poems with all their charm intact: wry and wise as Brandt's original Danish, yet singing in our own particular American music. By bringing Brandt the wider audience he deserves, These Hands makes good on the poet's own plaintive hope: "Are you there out there, you / spirit.... somewhere you certainly must be."

– Patrick Phillips

Danish poet Per Aage Brandt was born in Buenos Aires in 1944. He received his Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, his main areas of training being Romance Philology, Linguistics, and Comparative Literature. He has held teaching posts at the three major Danish universities and visiting lectureships and fellowships at the Center for Advanced Behavioral Studies in the Behavioral Sciences Stanford, University of Bologna, University of Rosario (Argentina), École des Hautes Études, and Collège International de Philosophie, Paris. He is currently Professor of Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University. He has published close to thirty volumes of poetry while also publishing extensively in the fields of semiotics, linguistics, poetics, literary criticism, and aesthetics.

 

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