Poetry & Prose

Hymns & Qualms
New and Selected Poems and Translations
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017

Hymns & Qualms brings together for the first time MacArthur-winner Peter Cole’s acclaimed poetry and translations, braiding them into a helical whole. Praised for his “prosodic mastery” and “keen moral intelligence” (The American Poet), and for the “rigor, vigor, joy, and wit” of his poetry (The Paris Review), Cole has created a vital, unclassifiable body of work that plumbs centuries of wisdom as it pays the sharpest attention to the textures and tensions of the present. He is, Harold Bloom writes, “a matchless translator and one of the handful of authentic poets in his own American generation.”

Cole is, above all, a maker—of poems and worlds. From his earliest registrations of the Jerusalem landscape to his electric renderings of mystical medieval hymns; from his kabbalistically inspired recent poems to his sensuous versions of the Hebrew masterworks of Muslim Spain; and from his bold presentation of contemporary Palestinian and Israeli poetry to his own dazzling reckonings with politics, beauty, and the double-edged dynamic of influence, Cole offers a ramifying vision of connectedness. In the process, he defies traditional distinctions between old and new, familiar and foreign, translation and original—“as though,” in his own words, “living itself were an endless translation.”

“[Cole’s] poetry is … remarkable for its combination of intellectual rigor with delight in surface, for how its prosody returns each abstraction to the body, linking thought and breath, metaphysics and musicality. Religious, erotic, elegiac, pissed off – the affective range is wide and the forms restless.”
                          — Ben Lerner

“Hymns & Qualms is a majestic work, a chronicle of the imaginative life of a profoundly spiritual consciousness.”                                                                                                           —Harold Bloom

“Peter Cole sings like nobody else in English today, his ear attuned to the prosodies of classical Arabic and the Hebrew lyrics of Al-Andalus. In his poetry we hear shards of that ‘pure language’ which, according to Benjamin, arises when languages come together—and apart—in translation. Every rift of these Hymns & Qualms is loaded with ore.”                 —Richard Sieburth

“I love this book—for its idiosyncratic music, its moral and spiritual intelligence, and the balance it maintains between pain and joy, provocation and solace.  People are always asking what’s the point of poetry when the world is going to hell.  Hymns & Qualms is a potent reply.”                                                                                                                                                                                                           —Christian Wiman

“Cannot be recommended strongly enough…. The poems … burst with brilliance and vitality. One doesn’t read the poems so much as ride them as they soar across the ages and spheres.…  A wise and radiant collection.”                                                                                                                        —Justin Taylor, Paris Review Daily

“[Cole] is the author of one of the most remarkable bodies of poetry in English today…. His new book seamlessly brings together texts from three different languages, many cultures … and a wide range of periods…. In very accessible but always sharply formulated language [Hymns & Qualms] blurs the boundaries between the local and the global, the personal and the political, the descriptive and the meditative…. A work of great maturity…. Don’t miss it!”                                                                                           Jan Baetans, Cultural Studies Leuven 

“An excellent introduction to an extraordinary body of work, and surely one of the best books of the year.”                                                                                                                 —Bomb Magazine 

“Cole’s poems … are deeply mystical and deeply physical, impressively learned and gorgeously musical, rooted in tradition and yet absolutely singular. He’s one of the best religious poets writing in English, but he’s also a lovely love poet … and, when he wants to be, … sharply political.  Hymns & Qualms [is] a perfect introduction to Cole’s sensibility and craft.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Anthony Domestico, Commonweal Magazine

“Excellent…. The intensity of [Cole’s] line by line inventiveness and musical variations … show no discernible difference in the high quality of both his poems and translations…. [A] remarkable achievement.”                                                                                                                               —George Kalogeris, Literary Matters

Hymns & Qualms … celebrates the long and illustrious career of one of America’s most esteemed Jewish poets…. Monumental…. [Cole] captures the mystery, intensity, and beauty of the mind at work.”                                                                                                                                             Sonja James, The Journal (West Virginia)

“Cole’s work continues to be unpredictable and deeply moving intellectually and emotionally. That’s as true with gnomic quatrains he translates from eleventh- and twelfth-century Hebrew as with his own masterfully structured long poems marked, as they increasingly have been, by deft tonal shifts, dramatic pacing changes, reprise, and interlaced themes. The former give off a resonant ping; the latter take on centripetal force, concentrating inward even as Cole’s material expands…. No matter the modality, Cole’s splendid ear orchestrates awakenings.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   —Forrest Gander

Read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac 

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The Invention of Influence
with an Introduction by Harold Bloom
New Directions, 2014

William Carlos Williams Award, Finalist                              

National Jewish Book Award, Finalist

“Masterful…. Deeply allusive, profound, committed verse.”
— Booklist

“The poems collected in Peter Cole’s new book are deeply learned, wise, and marvelously constructed. I cannot imagine a more accomplished volume of poems will be published in 2014.”
— Staff Picks, Elliott Bay Books, Seattle

“One of the most receptive poets writing today….. With The Invention of Influence, Cole turns the ‘radical revolution’ of American poetry in new directions, writing with the same spiritual ardor, the same skepticism, and the same sublime craftsmanship that illuminates the work of … Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Susan Howe. He enlarges American poetry considerably, too, by demonstrating the kindred spirit shared by the Jewish mystical imagination and the restless agnosticism that defines the best of all our contemporary poetry.”
— Zack Finch, Jacket 2

Peter Cole has been called “an inspired writer” (The Nation) and “one of the most vital poets of his generation” (Harold Bloom). In this, his fourth book of poems, he presents a ramifying vision of human linkage. The mysteries of coupling and mediation, the delights of hearing and seeing, the dynamics of paranoia and reception, the perils of poetic vocation, the centrality of translation to the formation of self—all emerge in the freshest fashion along Cole’s characteristically sinuous and musical line.

At the heart of the collection stands the stunning title poem, which brings us into the world of Victor Tausk, a maverick and tragic early disciple of Freud who wrote about one of his patient’s mental inventions—an “influence machine” that controlled her thoughts. In Cole’s symphonic composition, this machine becomes a haunting image for the ways in which tradition and the language of others shape so much of what we think and say.

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Things on Which I’ve Stumbled
New Directions, 2008

“Peter Cole is best known as a matchless translator of Hebrew poetry. With Things on Which I’ve Stumbled he matures into one of the handful of authentic poets in his own American generation.”
— Harold Bloom

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Hymns & Qualms
Sheep Meadow Press, 1997

“Another masterpiece. [Hymns & Qualms] shows Cole working in long sequences, in Jabès-like narratives as well as tighter short forms…. Whatever the form, one thread flows through the whole: a master’s control of the language.”
— Shearsman Magazine (UK)

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What Is Doubled: Poems 1981-1998
Shearsman Books, 2005

“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: Late in the story, American modernism has invented a Jewish poet who is more than tangentially Jewish, and one whose affinities are older than the Yiddish immigrant traditions. This is not a varnish of local color, but an unexpected opening: a new archaic bringing a new ‘deep song.’”
— Eliot Weinberger

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Station Hill Press, 1989

Rift is a terrific book of poetry, let alone an astonishing first book.”
— Chicago Review

“There is no waste to this poetry and, more important, everything there is worth having, alive and on the move – ‘A way cut to the letter,’ in his words.”
— John Ashbery

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Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
(with Adina Hoffman)
Schocken/Nextbook, April 2011
American Library Association’s Brody Medal for the Jewish Book of the Year

“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…Sacred Trash has made history both beautiful and exciting.”

— David Nirenberg, The Nation

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