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In her new, complete translation of the Book of Psalms, Pamela Greenberg "favors beauty before theology," in the words of Mary Karr, writing in the Washington Post of the unpublished manuscript of this book, "breathing new life into the ancient texts." It is precisely the honesty of these prayer songs, overflowing into wild jubilance or deeply wrenching despair, that Greenberg has captured in her new translations, making them touch us so deeply. Traditional translations—from those of the medieval Jewish commentator Rashi to early Christian commentators to the King James version—have downplayed anger at God and reinterpreted the Psalms in ways that would be doctrinally more palatable, but which flatten the richness and subtlety of the Hebrew verse. Greenberg's translation aims to restore the poetry and vibrancy of the Psalms as a prayerful act, replicating their emotional passion while both wrestling with the text as living liturgy and remaining as true as possible to the originals. Her desire in this new translation is to rekindle the relevance of the Psalms, to bring to life what makes their words cry and breathe and shout—a labor of yearning, necessity, and love.
Pamela Greenberg is a poet and writer. She has an M.F.A from Syracuse University and a Masters in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College, where she received an award in Hebrew Literature. She spent a year in rabbinical school before deciding to dedicate herself more fully to writing. Pam has received several writing awards, including a University Fellows award at Syracuse and a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts. An excerpt from her Psalms translation appeared in Book World section of the Washington Post. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and young son.
“Greenberg’s psalms lure us into new depths of prayer with their muscular terror and fleshy joy.” —Sojourners
“Greenberg's version speaks with a directness and simplicity that distinguishes it from the magniloquence of most other versions…. A clear and moving…translation of the Psalms for modern readers.” — Library Journal
“[Greenberg’s] authentic engagement with these poems of universal human experience comes through in her translation…[her] knowledge of the original language of the psalms and their stylistic characteristics keeps the book from becoming simply a meditation about, or reaction to, any existing version in English…. [Readers] should welcome this poetic translation as not only the work of a modern poet but also fresh commentary on one of the best-loved books of the Bible.” — PublishersWeekly.com
“Pamela Greenberg’s delicious new translation of the psalms … has lifted the old language from spider webs and mothballs, breathing new air into the songs.”—Mary Karr
“I am no hide-bound traditionalist, but since I was raised on the psalms in God’s own King James version, I doubted anyone could improve on them. But Pamela Greenberg has done just that. She has felt her way into the spiritual resonance of these timeless poem/prayers. A remarkable achievement. I am sure this translation, the best one I know of at the moment, will find its way into personal prayer and collective praise.”—Harvey Cox, Professor of Divinity, Harvard University; author, The Future of Faith
“How could anyone improve on the translations I already know? At the first page I was gripped by the actual voice of these poems, and smiled and wept as if seeing a lost friend approach from a great distance—not lost, but alive and breathing, walking closer and closer, stepping into right now.”—Marie Howe
“As Pamela Greenberg writes in her introduction to this extraordinary new translation of the psalms, these are poems written not to formulate religious doctrine, but to give voice to religious emotion—all emotion, from anguish to exaltation, loneliness to thanksgiving, yearning to rage … A great gift to her readers.”—Susannah Heschel, from the Foreword