Faith In Arts: A Conversation with Peter Cole
Thursday, June 8th, 2023 at 1 PM Eastern
Streaming to Vimeo + Facebook
Presented as part of Faith in Arts

These conversations and interviews with a diverse group of artists, curators, faith leaders, and scholars explore the role of arts in spiritual practice and religious life in the arts.


Peter Cole is a poet and translator whose work takes root where cultures meet and tradition extends itself in vital fashion. 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 ramifying vision of connectedness, one that defies conventional distinctions between old and new, foreign and familiar, translation and original. He is, Harold Bloom writes, “a matchless translator and one of the handful of authentic poets in his own American generation.”

Born in Paterson, NJ, in 1957, Cole is the author of six books of poems—most recently Draw Me After (FSG, November, 2022) and Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations (FSG, 2017). His volumes of translation from medieval and modern Hebrew and Arabic include The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition (Yale) and The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 (Princeton), as well as poetry and fiction by Aharon Shabtai, Taha Muhammad Ali, Yoel Hoffmann, and others. He has also written a book of non-fiction, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Schocken/Nextbook), with his wife, Adina Hoffman, and edited Hebrew Writers on Writing (Trinity).

Cole has received numerous honors for his work, including fellowships from the NEA, the NEH, and the Guggenheim Foundation, the PEN Translation Award for Poetry, the American Publishers’ Association Hawkins Award for the best university press book of the year, the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  In 2007 he was named a MacArthur Fellow. Cole divides his time between Jerusalem and New Haven, where he teaches each spring at Yale.

Draw Me After
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, November 2022

“Cole’s splendid ear orchestrates awakenings.” —Forrest Gander

Peter Cole’s luminous new book is in many ways his freest and most moving to date. In Draw Me After, Cole evolves a supple, singular music that charts regions of wonder and danger, from Eden as a place of first response and responsibility to modern sites of natural and political catastrophe. 

At the heart of the volume lie two remarkable series: one translates drawings by Terry Winters into a textured language spun from the material abstractions of Winters’ art; the other winds through the book in dream-like fashion, offering prismatic and often haunting meditations on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet—in Kabbalistic tradition, the building blocks of existence. Inventive and receptive, physical, metaphysical, and playful, Cole’s poetry disturbs and enchants with “a quiet, streaming power that leads the reader back to it over and over again” (The Bloomsbury Review).


On Being Drawn: An Ekphrastic Translation (with Commentary)
Peter Cole and Terry Winters
The Cahiers Series/Sylph Editions, 2019

Is ekphrasis a kind of translation? Or translation a kind of ekphrasis? What kind of ekphrasis? Which sort of translation? On Being Drawn is a meditation on receptivity and composition, sensation and sympathy. Braiding drawings by artist Terry Winters, poems Cole wrote in response to them, and a prose commentary that explores the often synesthetic meeting of mediums, this cahier asks what it might mean to ‘translate experience’. In the process, it reflects on the primary yet mysterious role mediation plays in all we see and do, hear and know.