There's a long history of translating, rewriting or otherwise rendering the Psalms. Who are your favorites among your predecessors?
Christopher Smart. Smart used to fall down on his knees in the streets of London, and invite passersby to pray along with him. John Milton's one of my favorite poets, but his Psalms are more dutiful than participatory. P. Hateley Waddell, Robert Burns' editor, did the Psalms into Scots, and I like them a lot.
David Rosenberg, in "Blues of the Sky," translates 20 Psalms. He is direct and
How did you come to write the Psalms?
In the early 1990s, I wrote a book called "Duke: The Poems, as told to Laurance Wieder," which was the result of watching all John Wayne's movies again on tape, and reading every first-hand account I could find and then giving the Duke the benefit of whatever knowledge and skill I have. That turned out to be my training run for the Psalms. The difference being that everybody knows Wayne's voice. It had been inside me since childhood. Now, David was the
Did you do much research before you started?
I own and have read the Tyndale, Geneva, Douai and, many times, the King James Old Testament, the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, and most of the Anchor Bible. I also reread all the poets' versions of the Psalms, and did my feeble best with the Hebrew and the Latin.
Are any of those versions of the Psalms particularly good poetry?
All have great strength, but none put poetry on a par with authority.
Emphatically, yes! It's not the voice of a particular individual. The Book of Psalms traditionally assigns the poems to ten authors, a minyan: Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, and three court musicians, the sons of Korah. The Midrash records also that the poems themselves are of ten varieties: "glory, melody, Psalm, song, praise, prayer, blessing, thanksgiving, Hallelujah, and exultation."
So King David didn't actually write them.
The whole book is said to be David's because his voice is the sweetest--by which I understand that in David we have an entire life, personal and public, singer and warrior, shepherd and king. His life and the whole history of Israel are rolled up into one sweet