Peter Cole

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Islam, Judaism, medieval times, mysticism, religion
Written and spoken word (general)
America, North, Middle East
United States of America, Israel
created on:
April 28, 2005
last changed on:
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Peter Cole was born in Paterson/New Jersey, USA, in 1957. He began studying Hebrew in Jerusalem in 1981, and has since divided his time between Israel and the United States.Throughout this time he has worked intensively on Hebrew literature, with special emphasis on medieval Hebrew poetry.
In 1988 he started the ambitious project of translating Shmuel HaNagid into English, whose lyrical work had always been considered ´untranslatable´. ´Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid´ (1996) received the Modern Language Association´s Scaglione Prize for Translation. Shmuel HaNagid was the renowned 11th century poet and Jewish prime minister of the Muslim kingdom of Granada. Cole was granted a TLS translation award for ´Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol´ (2001), an equally challenging translation of the philosopher, poet, and mystic, who was a younger contemporary of Shmuel HaNagid and combined Arabic form and aesthetics with a Hebraic world-view. Cole´s edition also includes comprehensive annotations and an introduction to Gabirol´s work.

Cole is now working on a comprehensive anthology of medieval Hebrew poetry, entitled ´The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492´. Further authors translated from modern Hebrew and Arabic into English by Peter Cole include Avraham Ben Yitzhak, Harold Schimmel and Yoel Hoffmann, as well as the poets Aharon Shabtai and Taha Muhammad Ali.

Even Cole’s own poetry conveys, from the very beginning, his deep fascination with medieval lyrical structure and technique. The early poem ´Rift´ won the General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers in 1985 and became, in 1989, the title of his first original and highly acclaimed poetry collection. Critics praised the fusion of medieval lyrical elements and realistic colloquialisms as well as the unique sensual power that Cole creates by confronting visionary and actual perception. Ten years later, his second original collection, ´Hymns & Qualms´ (1998), shows his poetic work to be deeply rooted in medieval Hebrew and Arabic traditions without, however, losing touch with current events. Quotations from sources as disparate as Pentagon spokesmen, Theodor W. Adorno, witnesses to a 1994 massacre in Hebron, and a 9th-century court poet from Baghdad are woven into the poetry, thus forming musical incantations and striking counterpoints, while simultaneously expressing a firm political conviction against fanaticism. Peter Cole lives in Jerusalem where he and his wife are the publishers of Ibis Editions, which publishes literature of the Levant.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)


Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza

Published Written,
With Adina Hoffmann. Schocken/Nextbook: New York

War & Love, Love & War: New and Selected Poems

Published Written,
Translation. New Directions: New York

Hebrew Writers on Writing

Published Written,
Editor. Trinity University Press: San Antonio

Things on Which I´ve Stumbled

Published Written,
New Directions: New York

The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492

Published Written,
Princeton University Press: Princeton

So What: New & Selected Poems,1971-2005

Published Written,
Translation. Copper Canyon Press: Port Townsend

What Is Doubled: Poems 1981-1998

Published Written,
Shearsman Books: Exeter


Published Written,
Translation. New Directions: New York

Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction

Published Online,
Oxford University Press: Oxfordshire

Hymns & Qualms

Published Online,
Sheep Meadow: New York


Published Written,
Station Hill: New York


2010 TLS Risa Domb/Porjes Translation Prize
MacArthur Fellows Program
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship 2007
NEH Fellowship
Guggenheim Fellow 2002
PEN Translation Award for Poetry
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


International Festival of Literature Berlin

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