Poet and translator Peter Cole was the keynote speaker at Hampshire College’s 2010 commencement ceremony on May 22 at 11 a.m. on the Harold F. Johnson Library Lawn.
Cole is the recipient of a 2007 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He was honored with a 2010 Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Called by literary critic Harold Bloom “a major poet-translator” and “one of a handful of authentic poets of his own generation,” Cole has published four volumes of poetry: Rift, Hymns & Qualms, What Is Doubled: Poems 1981-1989, and, most recently, Things on Which I’ve Stumbled.
His prizewinning translations of the Hebrew poetry of Muslim and Christian Spain have helped recreate for contemporary American readers the multifaceted world of medieval Iberia. He traced the arc of that period in his comprehensive 2007 anthology, The Dream of the Poem, which received the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry and the American Publishers Association’s award for Book of the Year.
Among his translations from contemporary Hebrew and Arabic literature are Love & Selected Poems and J’Accuse by Aharon Shabtai, So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005 by Taha Muhammad Ali, The Collected Poems of Avraham Ben Yitzhak, and Curriculum Vitae by Yoel Hoffmann.
Cole has received numerous awards for his work, including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 1998 Modern Language Association Translation Award. J’Accuse received the 2004 PEN-America Award for Poetry in Translation.
Cole is also a co-founder and co-editor of Ibis Editions, a nonprofit press that publishes the Literature of the Levant.
As the MacArthur Foundation noted, Cole’s work “offers a unique and inspiring vision of the cultural, religious, and linguistic interactions that were and are possible among the peoples of the Middle East.”
Cole is a graduate of Hampshire College, entering in fall 1977 as a transfer from Williams College. He began studying Hebrew in Jerusalem in 1981 and has since divided his time between Israel and the United States. He has taught and been a visiting artist at Yale University, Wesleyan University, and Middlebury College.
Peter Cole’s website
Commencement 2010 information