People of the Books: Psalms Redux by Carla A. Grosch-Miller

I got this book in the store of Iona Abbey in Scotland last year, so it was interesting in reading it to continually be tied by memory to the experience I had there and my opinions of that landscape.

This book was written as a go-around for people seeking access to the psalms.  Although it’s called the prayerbook and the songbook of the Bible, Psalms is a collection of verse written (mostly) by a Jewish shepherd in the 11th century B.C. in Hebrew.  Yes, poetry is timeless, but there are a lot of references and structures that simply don’t have the punch for 21st century English-speaking non-shepherds that they would have had for their original audience.  I love the Psalms, but there are some times when I just have no connection to them.  This book, then, was a great find.

Grosch-Miller took the psalms themselves and sort of re-wrote them; the best way to explain how is to show you an example, since it’s not like she scrapped them all and started over.  I’ll go with Psalm 23 since it’s a really well-known one:

This I know;
My life is in Your hands.
I have nothing to fear.

I stop,
breathe,
listen.

Beneath the whirl of what is
is a deep down quiet place.
You beckon me to tarry there.

This is the place
where unnamed hungers
are fed, the place
of clear water,
refreshment.

My senses stilled,
I drink deeply,
at home
in timeless territory.

In peril, I remember:
Death’s dark vale holds no menace.
I lean into You;
Your eternal presence comforts me.
I am held tenderly.

In the midst of all that troubles,
that threatens and diminishes,
You set abundance before me.
You lift my head; my vision clears.
The blessing cup overflows.

This I know:
You are my home and my hope,
my strength and my solace,
and so shall You ever be.  (13-14)

So it’s nothing earth-shattering, but they make a great devotional tool.  And I discovered by about the third psalm (she doesn’t do all 150, by the by, which is kind of a shame but a choice I understand; this was a devotion for her, too) that you shouldn’t read these and the actual psalms side-by-side.  These are meant to be reimagings of the originals, true, but they’re not translations or anything of that sort.  They’re poetry in their own right, and at least for the first reading need to be able to be met on their own terms.

This also has, after the selected “reduxed” psalms, a collection of original poetry from Grosch-Miller, including a “Psalm for the Oversubscribed” and “A January Prayer” and “Waiting for Resurrection (for survivors of domestic and church violence),” among others.  I liked some and wasn’t wild about others, which is kind of how I felt about this whole book, but I do think that some will be great to work into liturgy some day.

I like that this introduces this idea to me of relating to and working with the psalms as a writer and on a writer’s level, which hadn’t really occurred to me before.  While it’s true that the Scriptural canon is closed, it is still a living Word that asks for interaction and wrestling; Grosch-Miller has opened a new way for me to consider doing that and has offered her own first steps for me to follow.  The poems themselves may be hit-and-miss, but the concept is worth keeping the book around for further reference.  And, to its credit, when the poems are really good, they’re really good, both by themselves and in the sense that they send me scurrying back to the original psalms, which is really the best thing a book like this could do.

 

Rating:  4/5 stars  5ac3e-1056599-golden-four-star-rating-border-poster-art-print

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One thought on “People of the Books: Psalms Redux by Carla A. Grosch-Miller

  1. […] discovered a new book, thanks to my niece’s blog. If you want a fresh reading of the Psalms, try this re-duxed version by Carla A […]

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