The Book of a Hundred Hands

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University of Iowa Press, 2005 - Poetry - 142 pages
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The hand is second only to language in defining the human being, and its constant presence makes it a ready reminder of our humanity, with all its privileges and obligations. In this dazzling collection, Cole Swensen explores the hand from any angle approachable by language and art. Her hope: to exhaust the hand as subject matter; her joy: the fact that she couldn’t.

These short poems reveal the hand from a hundred different perspectives. Incorporating sign language, drawing manuals, paintings from the 14th to the 20th century, shadow puppets, imagined histories, positions (the “hand as a boatless sail”), and professions (“the hand as window in which the panes infinitesimal”), Cole Swensen’s fine hand is “that which augments” our understanding and appreciation of “this freak wing,” this “wheel that comforts none” yet remains “a fruit the size and shape of the heart.”

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User Review  - Paulagraph - LibraryThing

The book of a hundred hands is a compendium, a thorough and thoroughly poetic examination of the human hand. The poems are organized into sections, which give an idea of Swenson’s approach to the ... Read full review


Positions of the Hand
Professions of the Hand
Representations of the Hand
The Anatomy of the Hand
American Sign Language
Shadow Puppets
A Manual of Gesture Public Speaking for the Gentleman 1879
Paintings of Possible Hands

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About the author (2005)

Cole Swensen is the author of nine other books of poetry, including Such Rich Hour and Try (Iowa, 2001 and 1999). Her work has won the National Poetry Series competition, the Iowa Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, and a Pushcart Prize, and she has been a finalist for the National Book Award. She is also a translator of contemporary French poetry, prose, and art criticism. Currently on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she divides her time among Iowa City, Washington, D.C., and Paris.

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