Things on Which I've Stumbled
"Peter Cole is a true maker. His extraordinary learning is deep and personal, and his poems, like his translations, are powered by a large spiritual quest to link and light the world with words. He stands with amazement before great mysteries."
"[A] major new book.... The title-poem is a tour de-force.... Readers searching for wholly modern poetry dealing with spiritual issues, grounded in history, and presented with great craft will find it in Cole's new book."
"Prosodic mastery fuses with a keen moral intelligence in this collection. In his unabashed search for wisdom and beauty – notions many poets today find fatuous or at least too subjective to handle – Cole fearlessly manipulates sonic and semantic patterns.... Working from ancient sources, he has enacted Pound's dictum to 'Make it new.'"
"[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, Bomb Magazine
"Erudite, politically charged, and often dazzling."
Philip Metres, Gently Read Literature
"[Cole's] blend of formalism, Hebraicism, poetic midrash, and Modernist collage is marvelous."
"A poet of great insight and power."
Dustin Kurtz, McNally-Jackson Books
"Peter Cole is not a household name, but this MacArthur Fellow has had a long and impressive career as a poet.... There is a quiet, streaming power in Cole's work that leads the reader back to it over and over again."
The Bloomsbury Review
“Cole has perhaps the most capacious command of the Jewish poetic tradition of any poet now writing in English... [He] uses poetry as a medium of intellectual, moral, and aesthetic inquiry ... as though the self was instantiated, expanded, and freshly explored with each turn... [In Things on Which I’ve Stumbled,] he shapes an audacious, memorable text.”
Eric Murphy Selinger, Religion and Literature
"Cole is a writer of deeply textured poems.... His rhythms surprise, his forms feel simulatanelously archaic and fresh. He is always interesting, but much of the time he manages even more.... It's tempting to think of him as one of his beloved Jewish Andalusian poets reborn in our own time."
What Is Doubled: Poems 1981-1998
"The keenness of his mind and the moral seriousness of his work astonish. To my thinking, the exquisite specificity of his diction and the intricacy of his prosody are without parallel among the poets of his – and my – generation."
"Rift [is] a collection of planar asperities inscribed on the ground-zero of Judaism. [Its] vast lexical spires and belltowers rang with a music new to American poetry – equal parts Louis Zukofsky, August Roebling and something else entirely.... Grounded in Cole's immersion in medieval Arabic and Hebrew poetics, the poems [of Hymns & Qualms] have a newly relaxed amplitude, sounding within a wider range of variation. In the beautiful opening sequence, short canto-like lyrics climb upwards along a fifty-page armature, seamlessly conflating background and foreground, commentary and invocation, and producing a charmed relativity in the head of the reader."
Hymns & Qualms
"The combination of observation, reverence, and wit... makes Cole an engaging poet.... Dazzling and sober, spare and moving."
"While Cole's imagination roams freely and... glosses upon traditional English poetry and its musics, the book's primary setting is Jerusalem and its imagination is nourished by rabbinic Judaism.... Hymns & Qualms works in an exquisite tension between lyricism and elliptical intelligence."
Poetry Flash (US)
"In these new poems Peter Cole invents his own modern medievalism – a playful sensuality implicating always the persistent tradition of law and legend. His collages and constructivist humor are necessary and large. He has mastered a clear line but can also give us a ferocious deposition against fanaticism. With Hymns & Qualms he introduces to American poetry a startling synthesis of the poetry of wisdom and the freshest music."
"[Rift is] one for all of you who thought modern poetry could not be both profound and beautiful at the same time. For me this is the epitome of modern lyric."
Shearsman Magazine (UK)
"Peter Cole's poetry envelops light as it conveys light. His line is delicate and ineluctable. Rift locates home through each step of a journey through exile and ecstasy.
“Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole spin an extraordinary tale of intellectual adventure and lasting scholarly accomplishment. The men and women who brought the Cairo Geniza to light are presented here in painstaking detail, their quirks and their brilliance exposed in equal measure. Carefully researched and beautifully written.”
—James KugelAuthor of How to Read the Bible
"A small masterpiece. The romance of Hebrew scholarship has never been so vividly conveyed. This book is extraordinary in characterization, thought, and prose style. It will teach common readers, Jewish and gentile, how much spiritual tradition owes to the greatest scholars. This teaching comes through with delight.
"A jewel of a book: a lively and deeply informed account of the cairo Geniza, a magnificent Egyptian treasure-house of Jewish religion, literature, and history that was forgotten for centuries, and of the extraordinary crew of scholars and impresarios who saved the documents, fitted the scraps back together, and made them speak and sing."
“What a delight to have the story of the Cairo Geniza, its romantic recovery and spectacular contents, told here by two such brilliant wordsmiths as Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole. This book takes readers to the very navel of the medieval world, east and west, Arab and Jew, shattering many preconceptions along the way.”
—Janet Soskice, author of Sisters of Sinai
“Absorbing.… Hoffman and Cole are adroit in their exegesis. [Sacred Trash is] an accessible, neatly narrated story of hallowed detritus and the resurrection of nearly 1,000 years of culture and learning.”
“A wonderfully passionate and lively account of a civilization we could not have imagined existed and of the men and women whose enthusiasm and dedication brought it to light.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Both lively and elevating... an extended act of celebration of Cairo's historical Jewish community, their documents, and their documents’ 20th-century students... Wonderfully revived by Hoffman and Cole.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully written, learned and lucid, “Sacred Trash” is a treasure that should not be hidden…. Exquisitely realized.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
“Charming and unobstrusively erudite.... Hoffman and Cole have produced colorful portraits of the Geniza scholars, their intellectual poassions, their scholarly agendas and controversies, and in some cases their personal egos and jealousies.... Fascinating ... a very human story.”
Norman Stillman, The Jewish Review of Books
“Hoffman and Cole unfold this saga with dramatic flair, peppering their narrative with the Geniza's own distinct voices, from the ancient and medieval to the modern and contemporary. Skillfully they embed the drama contained within the old texts with the contemporary dramas of the people handling the texts... It is a testament to [them] that they have fleshed out these ghosts, and patiently constructed a vivid, human saga every bit as extraordinary as a miracle.”
“Hoffman and Cole deliver a riveting true account… Invigorating.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Wonderfully accessible and exciting."
–The Boston Globe
“It has taken over a century, and two non-academics, for us to have such a readable, at times gripping, account of one of the most important modern discoveries of written material from the Middle ages….[A] wonderful book.”
David Wasserstein, The Times Literary Supplement
“With the skill of historians and the style of novelists, Hoffman and Cole tell the remarkable story of the medieval document trove that came to light in the 1890s and has kept scholars busy for over a century.... The book is beautifully written and commended to all who would gain insight into both the painstaking work of dedicated scholars and a world long past.”LA Review of Books
Middle East Quarterly
“[Sacred Trash] is a treasure trove--not just in its evocation of the wonders of the Cairo geniza itself, but also in its stories out of the long romance of Hebrew literature and scholarship, and in Cole's and Hoffman's supple and elegant writing. One comes away from reading Sacred Trash intensely moved.”
“An elegant history of one of the great modern feats of cultural resurrection… Sacred Trash tells [its] story with narrative vigor and lightness of learning.”