Psalms

Overview

Moving easily between high and low diction, evoking at once the language of the King James Bible and the sharp psalms of Bertolt Brecht, these lyrics offer a spirituality rooted in the daunting pressures of late-twentieth-century life-living in cities, disease, war, sexual love, friendship, and, always, wandering.
Carrying forward an age-old argument about the existence of God and the paradox of human suffering, they test the barriers to faith ...

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Overview

Moving easily between high and low diction, evoking at once the language of the King James Bible and the sharp psalms of Bertolt Brecht, these lyrics offer a spirituality rooted in the daunting pressures of late-twentieth-century life-living in cities, disease, war, sexual love, friendship, and, always, wandering.
Carrying forward an age-old argument about the existence of God and the paradox of human suffering, they test the barriers to faith in ourselves and in our connections with others, and they explore how doubt can accommodate belief.

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Editorial Reviews

John Ashbery
“April Bernard's voice is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, but the wilderness is our populated, all too familiar one and her psalms are striped with modern despair, loving, and knowing.”
John Ashbery
“April Bernard's voice is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, but the wilderness is our populated, all too familiar one and her psalms are striped with modern despair, loving, and knowing.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her second collection of poetry, Bernard ( Bye Bye Blackbird ) takes the psalm as a point of departure and arrival, mingling a contemporary ``scramble of idioms'' with spiritual searching in more than 30 poems. The poetry is about rhythm, partly: the jazzy, worldly rhythms that surround us and can obstruct or buoy. It's also about listening: Bernard's ear has absorbed the calls and answers of previous meditative writings and writers before taking leave of them and claiming us as an audience. Her own voice adds to that gathering, offering lamentation, cynicism, restlessness, hope and a pictorial intelligence especially alert to urban subjects. And part of the pleasure of reading is the surprises she deals out, from word to word or line to line. In ``Praise Psalm of the City-Dweller,'' Bernard writes of ``yellow sedans'' that ``herd like goats''; in ``Psalm of Withdrawal'' and elsewhere, she knits high and low vision and diction skillfully into one fabric. In ``Psalm of the Explanation Dwellers,'' she considers the battle of the sexes, without simplifying. There's a quality of bolting in the book's most energetic work that suggests a satisfying assertion of the human over the divine. (Dec.)
Library Journal
These 30 psalms might be read as the desperate utterances of the downwardly mobile: the apartment dweller fallen from grace, the homeless, the bereft, the healthy taken ill, perhaps fatally so. Their vision of bleakness is not limited to the urban landscape; in a beach scene, for instance, ``crazy cottages stuck like bird houses above/the shifting sand/ tell their own Pentateuchal comedy, as it will/ someday also please the storm to laugh out loud'' (``Psalm of the Spit-Dweller''). For Bernard, a possible explanation of our postmodern condition is that ``there is/ only so much love in the world, and it got used up/by our ancestors'' (``Psalm of the Explanation Dwellers''). Although many of these poems will need decoding, their emotive base is plain; a more accessible prose poem, ``Lamentations and Praises,'' which ends the book, seems, nevertheless, more ambitious and makes better use of the poet's narrative gift. For brave readers.-- Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393313048
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Pages: 74
  • Sales rank: 1,056,734
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.18 (d)

Meet the Author

April Bernard

April Bernard is the author of three poetry collections and a novel. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Boston Review, the New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. She lives in Bennington, Vermont.

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Table of Contents

Psalm of the City-Dweller Gone Home 3
Psalm of the Canal-Dweller 5
Psalm of the Spit-Dweller 6
Psalm of the Surveyor in the Middle Latitudes 7
Psalm of the Sleeping 8
Psalm of the Disarranged 9
Psalm of the Surprised 10
Praise Psalm of the City-Dweller 11
Psalm of the Wind-Dweller 15
Psalm: Cris de Coeur 16
Psalm of the Beaten 18
Psalm of Rescue 19
Psalm of the Card-Readers 20
Psalm of the Apartment-Dweller 21
Torch Psalm 22
Psalm of Those in Need 23
Psalm of the Witness 24
Little Melody Psalm 25
Psalm of the Explanation-Dwellers 26
Psalm of the Tree-Dweller 29
Psalm of the Ring-Bearer 30
Psalm: It Must Be the Medication 31
Psalm of the Beloved 32
Psalm of the Bereft 33
Psalm of the Historian 35
Psalm of a Dark Day 36
Psalm on the Eve 37
Psalm of Withdrawal 41
Trio Psalm 44
Psalm of the One Who Has No Dwelling Place 46
Lamentations and Praises 53
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