The Dream of the Poem

Peter Cole
  • From the Publisher
July 22, 2013
Hebrew cul­ture expe­ri­enced a renew­al in medieval Spain that pro­duced what is arguably the most pow­er­ful body of Jew­ish poet­ry writ­ten since the Bible. Fus­ing ele­ments of East and West, Ara­bic and Hebrew, and the par­tic­u­lar and the uni­ver­sal, this verse embod­ies an extra­or­di­nary sen­su­al­i­ty and intense faith that tran­scend the lim­its of lan­guage, place, and time.

Peter Cole’s trans­la­tions reveal this remark­able poet­ic world to Eng­lish read­ers in all of its rich­ness, humor, grace, grav­i­ty, and wis­dom. The Dream of the Poem traces the arc of the entire peri­od, pre­sent­ing some four hun­dred poems by fifty-four poets, and includ­ing a panoram­ic his­tor­i­cal intro­duc­tion, short biogra­phies of each poet, and exten­sive notes. (The orig­i­nal Hebrew texts are avail­able on the Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press Web site.) By far the most potent and com­pre­hen­sive gath­er­ing of medieval Hebrew poems ever assem­bled in Eng­lish, Cole’s anthol­o­gy builds on what poet and trans­la­tor Richard Howard has described as the finest labor of poet­ic trans­la­tion that I have seen in many years” and an entire rev­e­la­tion: a body of lyric and didac­tic verse so intense, so intel­li­gent, and so vivid that it appears to iden­ti­fy a whole dimen­sion of his­tor­i­cal con­scious­ness pre­vi­ous­ly unavail­able to us.” The Dream of the Poem is, Howard says, a crown­ing achievement.” 

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