Draw Me After: Poems

Farrar. Nov. 2022. 128p. ISBN 9780374605360. $26.
Living in both Jerusalem and Connecticut, MacArthur fellow Cole (Hymns & Qualms) is an award-winning translator, poet, and part-time Yale professor whose seventh book exemplifies the question he discussed in an interview with Ben Lerner in BOMB: “What is the sacred and how does it feed or impede us?” To answer, Cole looks at the connection between the Hebrew alphabet and words, language and poetry, body and spirit, sacred and profane. Humans, according to Cole, live in two worlds (as he does); they are falling away from paradise while Eden draws them back. The standout “Yod” suggests that humankind’s “squiggle/ scrawl” is reaching to an “Eminence” that “bends/ down to call/ us through duration.” Caught between the heavenly and earthly states, poets hear music, i.e., the words of the poem. Take “Look Again,” where one word builds on another word until there’s music that sparks a fire, generating colors and becoming light, darkness, landscape, then breath, and ultimately creating (as in Genesis) life in the poem and the reader.

CORRECTION: Due to a mistake in editing, this review originally misspelled Cole’s last name in the bibliographic header. LJ regrets the error.

VERDICT Coming from Cole’s fascination with word play and paradox, the best of these poems are laced with alliteration and rhyme, shape-shifting as they focus on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the creative process. For poetry readers who like pondering deep questions.
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