Peter Cole

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the electronic engineer, see Peter Harold Cole.
Peter Cole
Born 1957
Paterson, New Jersey
Nationality American
Alma mater Williams College;
Hampshire College
Genres Poetry; Translation
Spouse Adina Hoffman

Peter Cole (born 1957) is an American Jewish poet and translator who lives in Jerusalem and New Haven.

Early life[edit]

Cole was born in 1957 in Paterson, New Jersey. He attended Williams College and Hampshire College, and moved to Jerusalem in 1981.

Literary career[edit]

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.” [1] 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.[2] Other reviewers have noted the “politically charged” nature of the verse,[3] 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.” [4]

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.” [5] The New York Times Book Review wrote that “his versions are masterly.” [6]

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.[7]

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.” [8]

Cole has also translated contemporary Hebrew and Arabic poetry and fiction by Aharon Shabtai, Yoel Hoffmann, Taha Muhammad Ali, Avraham Ben-Yitzhak, and others.

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.[9]

Translation and editing philosophy[edit]

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." [10]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Adina Hoffman, an essayist and biographer.[11]



External links[edit]