Cole's first book of poems, Rift, was published in 1989, and Hymns & Qualms in 1998. The two volumes were reissued in the UK as What is Doubled: Poems 1981-1988. Things on Which I've Stumbled was published in the fall of 2008.
Cole’s work as both a poet and a translator reflects a sustained engagement with the cultures of Judaism and especially of the Middle East. He is, Eliot Weinberger has written “an urban poet whose city is Jerusalem; a classicist whose Antiquity is medieval Hebrew; a sensualist whose objects of delight are Mediterranean; an avant-gardist whose forms are the meditation, the song, the jeremiad, the proverb.”  The American Poet noted that “prosodic mastery fuses with a keen moral intelligence” in Cole’s work, which the reviewer says is distinctive for its unfashionable engagement with wisdom and beauty.  Other reviewers have noted the “politically charged” nature of the verse,  and Harold Bloom has observed that “with Things on Which I’ve Stumbled [Cole] matures into one of the handful of authentic poets in his own generation.” 
Cole has also worked intensively on Hebrew literature, with special emphasis on medieval Hebrew poetry. His 2007 anthology, The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry in Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 (Princeton)—recipient of the National Jewish Book Award and winner of the American Publishers Association’s award for Book of the Year—traces the arc of the entire period. Poet and translator Richard Howard described Cole’s work as “an entire revelation: a body of lyric and didactic verse so intense, so intelligent, and so vivid that it appears to identify a whole dimension of historical consciousness previously unavailable to us.”  The New York Times Book Review wrote that “his versions are masterly.” 
In 2008, Cole combined and collected Hebrew literary works to create Hebrew Writers on Writing (Trinity University Press) which delves into their reflections on writing and explores the issues of national, linguistic, and ethnic identity.
Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, a nonfiction book co-authored with his wife Adina Hoffman, was published in 2011 by Schocken Books and tells the story of the recovery from a Cairo geniza (or repository for worn-out texts) of the most vital cache of Hebrew manuscripts ever discovered. A review in The Nation characterized it as a “A literary jewel whose pages turn like those of a well-paced thriller, but with all the chiseled elegance and flashes of linguistic surprise that we associate with poetry.” 
Cole, who has taught and been a visiting artist at Yale, Wesleyan, and Middlebury, is one of the founders and editors of Ibis Editions, a small press devoted to the publication of the literature of the Levant.
Translation and editing philosophy
Cole believes that "helping things say what they seem to want to say, or are 'bound' to say," is central to his work as an editor and translator. He regards language as sacred, or a reflection of the sacred, and describes care for language as a moral and metaphysical act that "takes one into the weave of being." 
- 2007 MacArthur Fellows Program 
- National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
- NEH Fellowship
- 2004 PEN Translation Fund Grant from PEN American Center
- 2004 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
- 2002 Guggenheim Fellow 
- TLS Translation Prize
- MLA's Scaglione Prize for Translation
- National Jewish Book Award in Poetry
- Hawkins Prize for Book of the Year from the Association of American Publishers' Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division
- G.E. Younger Writers' Award.
- An interview with Ben Lerner in Bomb
- Interview with Peter Cole
- Cole's page on the MacArthur Foundation website
- Peter Cole's website
- at Levantine Cultural Center
- Harold Bloom's review of The Dream of the Poem in the New York Review of Books
- Eric Ormsby's review of The Dream of the Poem in the New York Times
- About Peter Cole
- About Ibis Editions