Things on Which I've Stumbled

Things on Which I’ve Stumbled is the fourth collection of poems by Peter Cole, a prolific translator and publisher of Jerusalem-based Ibis Editions. Prosodic mastery fuses with a keen moral intelligence in this collection, which draws inspiration from Cole’s work translating the great Hebrew poets of medieval Spain. The book opens with "Improvisation on Lines by Isaac the Blind," who was a thirteenth-century kabbalist from Provence:

Only by sucking, not by knowing,
can the subtle essence be conveyed—
sap of the word and the world’s flowing...

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. His work includes contemporary syntactic jumps and twists while exploring the use of ornament, finding a parallel in poetry’s obsession with design and the visual decoration of Islamic art. Working from ancient sources, he has enacted Pound’s dictum to "Make it new."

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.