22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Peter Cole

Portrait Peter Cole
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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. He has worked intensively on Hebrew literature, with special emphasis on medieval Hebrew poetry. In 1988 he started the ambitious project of translating into English texts by Shmuel HaNagid, 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. Cole’s own poetry has conveyed, 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 directors of Ibis Editions, which publishes literature of the Levant.

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