Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Q&A with Peter Cole




Peter Cole is the author of the new poetry collection Draw Me After. His other books include the collection Hymns & Qualms. He is also a translator from Hebrew and Arabic, and he teaches at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and in Jerusalem.


Q: What inspired you to create Draw Me After?


A: Pretty much every syllable, song, and sight I’ve encountered since finishing my previous book. That and an often desperate desire to bear witness to what matters, as matter.


Q: The author Rosanna Warren said of the book, “‘Waking the letters from their slumber’: that’s Peter Cole’s mad, sublime task in these phantasmagoric poems. Every line of this book breaks the literal—the letters—into visionary scenes where sorrow marries joy and blessings almost rhyme with curse. A revelation.” What do you think of that description?


A: It’s classic Warren: sharp, fresh, efficient, illuminating. She manages to recharge every word she uses and reviews.   

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: It comes from the exact center of the multiple focal points in the Terry Winters’s drawing on the cover. If you drill down into each of them, you’ll find the same well-known verse from the opening of the Song of Songs, along with 70 mirrored commentaries on the tunnels you made to get there. More simply, Eros and alphabets. Eros and others. We’re always drawing and being drawn, in all senses of the verb—and that’s a good tension to be in.


Q: What do you see as the relationship between the words and the art in the book?


A: Translation from and into the original is the defining relationship of the book, whether or not a given poem relates to what we can identify as another work of “art.” In other words, it isn’t always obvious what the original is, but the aim is always a reconfiguring transmission. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Today? Revising a talk I’m giving about a kind of kabbalistic and Jewish gospel middle-of-the-winter-night song sessions that, some four decades ago, in Jerusalem, had a decisive influence on the development of my poetry. I’m also putting finishing touches on a translation of Coronal lockdown poems by the great Israeli contemporary poet, Aharon Shabtai, who is now in his 80s.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Probably.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment