cover image The Invention of Influence

The Invention of Influence

Peter Cole. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2172-6

MacArthur Fellow Cole’s fourth volume of original poetry (after Things On Which I’ve Stumbled) retains tangible traces of his work as a translator of the poetry of Hebrew mystics. These poems extend the mystics’ project, seeking the spiritual self and finding it, quite often, in the threshold between “world” and “word.” Split into three sections, this book begins and ends with Cole’s attempt to arrive, through poems whose prosody bears the heavy influence of Dickinson and Blake, at his own tractate in which a reader may find the glimmer of an answer, however liminal: “Only angels in the poem live on// as characters catching the light between things.” But it is the middle section, the collection’s eponymous long poem, that is by far its most absorbing. The story of Freud’s under-appreciated and complicated disciple Victor Tausk, who developed the concept of the “influence machine” to which the paranoid schizophrenic falls prey, serves as a rich backdrop against which Cole deeply explores wide ranging concerns. Textured with rabbinic teachings, translations of the letters of Tausk and Freud, and Cole’s own voice, the masterful long poem is “born of a need to explain the cause/ of things inherent in man.” (Feb.)