A young poet, with a string of small press publications already behind him, decided to reinterpret the Books of Psalms, for himself: "The Lord is my shepherd/and keeps me from wanting/what I can't have." That first small edition of 200 mimeographed copies sold out (Some Psalms, Angel Hair Books, 1973). And so did a later expanded version with rivisions of the original six psalms plus fourteen more.
And the word spread until someone at Harper & Row's Religion Department saw the value of Rosenberg's "experiments." But these "interpretations" should not only be of interest to those curious about the psalms. They are fine, contemporary, often moving poems: "depression like a moth/eats from behind my face,/tiny motors of pain push me . . . let all my enemies shiver/on the stage of their total self-consciousness/and all their careers ruined in one night."
The Harper edition includes an essay by the author on his writing of these works. It's enlightening, sometimes a little strained, but mostly refreshing as when he compares the psalmist and the blues man, listing what they share: "a resistance to superstition, cynicism, and self-righteousness, without the pretense of perfectly transcending them; a desire not to sound smarter than one is, and to let one's heaviest feelings resonate in a gentle irony and become lightened in a harmonics of repetition." (Harper & Row, $6.95)