Friday, March 27, 2009

Peter Cole: Things on Which I've Stumbled

Things on Which I've Stumbled, Peter Cole (New Directions, 2008)

Cole is an acclaimed translator of Hebrew & Arabic poetry. I was nuts about his 1st 2 books, Rift & Hymns & Qualms. This new one strikes me as more straightforward, more 1st-person – but still terrifically impressive. Plainspoken wit, lots of gestures towards traditional form, a questioning but always humble mysticism, drawing as much on Muslim as Jewish sources. A number of savage, bitterly funny critiques of Zionism. The long, dazzling title poem is Cole's wanderings through the materials stowed in the geniza – "a storeroom that holds worn out and discarded Hebrew texts" – of a Cairo synagogue, now held in Cambridge. A brilliant & haunting collage of bits & pieces, ritual texts, love poems, letters, everything. "Strange how I've become a modern / poet of a medieval kind – / making poems for a different diversion, / as they point toward what's divine."


No comments: