Poet's Choice

By Mary Karr
Sunday, January 11, 2009

How I wish Pamela Greenberg's delicious new translations of the Psalms had hit my desk during the Jewish High Holy Days last fall. She was a poetry student of mine 20 years ago back at Tufts and Syracuse, but I'd lost track of her. When a friend recently sent me one of her Psalms, I asked him to forward the entire collection to me. They are currently unpublished. A former rabbinical student, Greenberg admits to taking liberties to modernize the songs, capturing the human ardor and agony. But how fresh the resulting language is. She favors things over ideas, beauty before theology. She even enlivens the traditional address: "My Lord" becomes "God, Our Upholder." Greenberg explains that "the word Adonai comes from a root meaning support for a pole of the tabernacle, so I often translate it as Foundation or Upholder." Here's her version of Psalm 8:

For the Conductor of the Eternal Symphony

upon the wine festival lyre,

a song of David.

God, Our Upholder, how vast is your signature

over all the earth.

It reflects your glory in the heavens.

From the mouth of infants and nurslings

you have made a foundation of strength

to oppose those who oppose you,

to bring the enemy and man of vengeance to a halt.

When I behold your name in the heavens,

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