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The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492

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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 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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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 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.

30 review for The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kaplan

    this sweeping anthology of the hebrew poetry of medieval spain is one of most important books of translation i've ever read. summary does it an injustice. the music and force of the translation, the reach of the scholarship which provides a kind of ground tone against which the variations of individual authors can be read, and that larger feeling as one reads that one is stumbling, line by line, into a new world, heretofore glimpsed only in embalmed academic translations and never before seen en this sweeping anthology of the hebrew poetry of medieval spain is one of most important books of translation i've ever read. summary does it an injustice. the music and force of the translation, the reach of the scholarship which provides a kind of ground tone against which the variations of individual authors can be read, and that larger feeling as one reads that one is stumbling, line by line, into a new world, heretofore glimpsed only in embalmed academic translations and never before seen en toto, provides something thrilling and rare.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    This is a really fascinating collection of poetry written by Iberian Jews over a period of some five hundred years, many of them translated into English for the first time by Peter Cole. His translations are a nice balance of lively and (so far as I can tell) respect towards the original phrasing, and are supported by informative introductions about each poet and by copious notes. The Dream of the Poem is perhaps not a book to read straight through, cover to cover—some of the themes are quite re This is a really fascinating collection of poetry written by Iberian Jews over a period of some five hundred years, many of them translated into English for the first time by Peter Cole. His translations are a nice balance of lively and (so far as I can tell) respect towards the original phrasing, and are supported by informative introductions about each poet and by copious notes. The Dream of the Poem is perhaps not a book to read straight through, cover to cover—some of the themes are quite repetitive and many of the poems don't appeal to my particular sensibilities. Every now and then, however, you get something which manages to retain its power even now: Behold, blood is the name of your soul, and ink the name of your spirit [...] For I knew my soul was dwelling in the redness as blood and my spirit was dwelling in the blackness as ink And there raged a war in my heart between the blood and ink: the blood from the wind and the ink from dust, and the black ink over the blood was victorious... As something to dip into over a period of time, however, this collection is pretty ideal, and of course is definitely worth looking into if you have a particular interest in the period.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Granger

    A very good collection of the great Hebrew poets and writers who emerged from the flowering of Jewish culture in Medieval Spain. A nice sampling of important figures of Kabbalah, philosophy, and culture, like Hanagid, ibn Gabirol, Halevi, Abulafia, and many more.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    I was inspired to read this by a friend who is investigating the life and times of Avroham Ibn Ezra (one of the poets featured in this book). She has told me stories about exploring some of the French locations where he lived and studied in the middle ages that have been totally built over. So these pieces of European Jewish history which were then places of worship and study are now basements. Reading through this compilation of poets from Spain and Southern France was magical. Peter Cole offer I was inspired to read this by a friend who is investigating the life and times of Avroham Ibn Ezra (one of the poets featured in this book). She has told me stories about exploring some of the French locations where he lived and studied in the middle ages that have been totally built over. So these pieces of European Jewish history which were then places of worship and study are now basements. Reading through this compilation of poets from Spain and Southern France was magical. Peter Cole offers little glimpses into the life of the poets and that combined with their original works makes this inspiring time for Jewish poetry come alive. It is invigorating to see images from Jewish liturgy used in many of these poems- giving those symbols added vibrance. Plus, getting a glance into the internal conflicts and personal observations of some of these Jewish poets is like a trip in a time machine. And there were a handful of homoerotic poems that I am still trying to contextualize.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    An extra-ordinary book. I've been dipping in and out since it arrived and while I haven't read everything it's perfect for someone like myself who knows nothing about the subject. Each poet has an introduction and a sampling of poems. IF the test of a good translation is the production of poems that work in English, as poems, then the skill of the translator is obvious. It's impossible not to compare these with the kind of poems being produced in English during the same period. They belong to su An extra-ordinary book. I've been dipping in and out since it arrived and while I haven't read everything it's perfect for someone like myself who knows nothing about the subject. Each poet has an introduction and a sampling of poems. IF the test of a good translation is the production of poems that work in English, as poems, then the skill of the translator is obvious. It's impossible not to compare these with the kind of poems being produced in English during the same period. They belong to such different worlds.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    So, it will take me forever to finish this anthology. Because I won't. But skipping around in my usual way has yielded many gems. I'm giving it three stars though, because the notes seem a little misogynist at times. Check this and marvel: My strength isn't fading, my branch is green my words are fresh, my lines are lithe; my soul sings, as breezes of song across my fields are sent by the Lord. For God works through me and so He created a tongue that speaks and a hand that records. --Vidal Benveniste, So, it will take me forever to finish this anthology. Because I won't. But skipping around in my usual way has yielded many gems. I'm giving it three stars though, because the notes seem a little misogynist at times. Check this and marvel: My strength isn't fading, my branch is green my words are fresh, my lines are lithe; my soul sings, as breezes of song across my fields are sent by the Lord. For God works through me and so He created a tongue that speaks and a hand that records. --Vidal Benveniste, 14th century

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Cole's translation is excellent; the English translations are fluid and creative. This book of poetry spans 500 years of Spanish poets writing about religion, love, God, and everyday life. Some verses sound like they could be from the Psalms. Cole's translation is excellent; the English translations are fluid and creative. This book of poetry spans 500 years of Spanish poets writing about religion, love, God, and everyday life. Some verses sound like they could be from the Psalms.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rauan

    great translations of great poetry--- i especially recommend Shmuel Hanagid, the Prince,....

  9. 4 out of 5

    Isidro Rivera

    Lyrical. Impressive mastery of intricate medieval poetical arts. Translation renders the poems into a contemporary idiom understandable by all. Truly unique!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sonny

  11. 5 out of 5

    Norman

  12. 4 out of 5

    Norma

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yvette

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zach

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mo Durrani

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joey Reisberg

  17. 5 out of 5

    MYOB

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shamse

  19. 5 out of 5

    Omar

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mohamad Ballan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jacobs

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ameliedanjou

  26. 4 out of 5

    Yemile

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Olson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carla Stone

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matei

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