Unable to find his niche and burdened by his relationship to Freud, he kills himself, sending letters to both Freud and his family. And as in homes, so in poems. Cole, a strong poet, is kinder than that to outwardness, without which poetry becomes impossible. The desire to compose in rhymed couplets in such a way as to highlight the openness lurking in a certain closure. Both have managed to deconstruct the picture of Kabbalah that the pioneering Scholem composed and both have introduced new, vital perspectives to the field. An enfeebling and passive derivative nature? The poem transcribed below is emblematic for Cole's rather deadpan, didactic style.
The poem is a striking rumination on the nature of competition in a narrow field, or a field made narrow by a force as gigantic as Freud. It is a work of translation in both a literal and figurative sense , and a commentary on life as a process -- the next generation taking up the work of the prior, reshaping it, making it one's own. The poem focuses on what numerous writers before Cole, particularly in Jewish-American literature, have grappled with previously: the uneasy relationship between sons and fathers. The works are clearly well-researched and interestingly bridge an ancient style of writing with a modern one. The words often felt forced into, rather than leaping from, the lines. It strikes me as a supremely conceptual kind of work that muses on a few key themes that, as far as I am aware of, resonate with the intuitions reflected in ancient Jewish wisdom traditio I've been schlepping this poetry collection with me through the past year but I find it hard to review.
On one level, Cole wonders if the American Jewish poetic quest can evade some affinities with the audacious Freudian project. Tausk's struggle with Freud's influence is rendered as the son who can't find his own way from beneath the name given to him. February 2014 The Invention of Influence by Peter Cole Influence is often a thing we recognize with the aid of time passing. This is from the center piece poem of the book, The Invention of Influence: Little by little we master our doubts and begin addressing ourselves as a friend. Hence the opening of the rabbinic Sayings of the Fathers Pirkei Avot : Moses received the Instruction Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the prophets, and the prophets passed it on to the men of the Great Assembly. Sweet angels of literary mercy!. Can they keep it from falling apart? One finds new sources of fire and puts them to use.
With that transformation Cole has become one of the few American Jewish poets whose work is originally Jewish, a phrase in itself paradoxical. For us the question is can one bring that heightened vision into an eye? Our Father Freud fully expected to replace Judaism with psychoanalysis and the man Moses by the man Solomon Freud. All that goes into the surface tension of a poem — becomes it. Lampada tradam — Lucretian runners passing on the torch of life and learning. In its various forms — including its Arabized medieval mode — Hebrew became for me what Arabic was for the Jewish poets of Spain: the way out that led, curiously, in. This is a book to which I will often return in my remaining years. I really enjoyed scratching away at these quasi-Kabbalistic riddles.
There were stanzas and a few poems where I forgot the structure and actually became enveloped in the content, but most of the time the structure was a distracting, salient feature. Myself a lifelong searcher for the Kabbalah of Harold Bloom, I have never found my sojourns in Israel useful for self-development, mostly because nobody in the Jewish state ever stops arguing or is silent enough to listen to anyone else. I quite like that but amateurs of a more effusive and subjective kind of poetry won't be charmed. Austin Duck In Read This or Kill Yourself we get tough with you about your bookshelf and what had damn well better be on it. Cole's poems confirm that in the shadows of history there is room still for creation, and that marking influence in a writer's work is a kind of invention on a critic's part. No active Kabbalist we still have them or scholar of Kabbalah would agree.
Skip Bloom and come back later. The poem itself is an ingenious creative effort: it's composed of radically reworked excerpts of Tausk's own poetry -- never published in his lifetime -- and supported by Cole's synthesis of prior works on Tausk's relationship with Freud, Tausk's own scientific writings, and, of course, Cole's peculiar invention. Even as they speak, he wonders, even as the fear departs: Is that the world coming together? After all I do not like him, do not trust him and just want him to go away, but so strong a literary character will not. Many poets and scholars who have spent significant time defining and articulating a contemporary Jewish American poetics have located Jewishness in formally experimental poetry, like that of Rachel Blau du Plessis, Hank Lazer, and Charles Bernstein. But here the agon is the unequal contest between Sigmund Freud and his gifted disciple Victor Tausk, who killed himself after sending Freud a suicide note.
As a reader, one runs the risk of skating along the deceptively smooth surface of such poems— but beneath those surfaces are fathoms to plumb. The mind's movement toward perfection is joy, said the Jew who continued to grind the glass that would kill him - and sorrow is in our knowing we're leaving perfection behind. It's a very complicated affair centring on the tragic relationship between Freud and his maverick disciple Victor Tausk. He has received numerous honors for his work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and in 2007 he was named a MacArthur Fellow. Eliot, genteel anti-Semite and aggressive neo-Christian. He taught me how to read Walt Whitman yet mystified me by affirming his trust in Yahweh.
In this, his fourth book of poems, he presents a ramifying vision of human linkage. But where does it take it? The poem chants farewell to my friend of more than thirty years, the late scholar of Andalusia, María Rosa Menocal, who taught at Yale and died in 2012, at the age of fifty-nine. Then again, one is always starting. In combination, the two books present a rare phenomenon in American poetry: maturation of individual stance and style through the prism of Hebrew and Arabic languages and literature. The literal dimension of his poems is, in other words, so extreme that it forces us to ask — Is this poetry? Cole may presage a new kind of American Jewish poet or he may prove a party of one. Who's to say how Cole came to Heraclitus? In this, his fourth book of poems, he presents a ramifying vision of human linkage. Or maybe that should just be — my standard for mysticism is the same as for poetry: does it make life more interesting or less? Arguably a worthier thing than the more explosive figurative or demonstrative verse of an Attitude, because the poetry of it is more readily available to people.