Thom Satterlee is the recipient of a 2014 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of New and Selected Poetry of Per Aage Brandt. Long considered one of Denmark’s most distinguished poets and scholars, Per Aage is writing his best poetry today, in the twilight of a long and prolific career. His poems take the reader on a lyrical journey through a mind that is constantly probing, questioning, remembering, reflecting, indicting. Satterlee’s translation recreates the subtlety and intelligence of the original with elegance and concision. Read Satterlee’s essay on translating New and Selected Poetry of Per Aage Brandt here

I don’t cohere, I contradict my-

self from moment to moment

especially from day to night, I am

the wind that blows from north

and south, though not simultaneously,

therein lie the limits of my incoherence


I’m spilling time, it’s milk

on the floor, water down

the back of a duck, words

for my good colleague lars,

it runs through the cracks

from which no one and nothing

returns, so hold on to the ice age,

the frozen time, save it in your

deep-freeze, enter and exist there,

I tell myself, be cold as cold is



it rains, it blows, it darkens, it goes

on and on, no one in the weather cares

about us, whatever time it is, and soon

it is morning, trees are down, the dead

and the injured appear in the papers, they

bleed black, no one in the weather cares

                                                          (the weather is the world)


the cat comes in happily with another baby rabbit,

warm but dead, how many times must I tell you,

we can’t go on writing the same truth over and over

                                                                      (can we, cat? cf. iraq)


he wrote a piece for 80 trombones and another for

4 barges filled with flutists, to Amsterdam’s canals,

they’d sail under the bridges, while marching bands

stomped over them, and the bells clanged from every

tower, huge women’s choirs howled from churches,

and wood crackled at home in the composer’s fireplace

                                                                     (Henry Brant, rest in peace)

This translation is available for publication.

This piece is part of PEN’s 2014 translation series, which features excerpts and essays from the recipients of this year’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.