April 2012 Preview: Religion as Verse

Barnstone, Willis, trans. The Poems of Jesus Christ. Norton. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780393083576. $26.95. RELIGION
The New Testament appears as prose, yet as distinguished poet, translator, and biblical scholar Barnstone says, Jesus’ words would have appeared in verse in the original Aramaic. Here Barnstone offers excerpts from The Restored New Testament, his innovative and much-praised 2009 translation, to present Jesus as the great invisible poet of the world. This poetic treatment is not unprecedented; the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon, typically in prose, has recently been seen as verse and rendered accordingly. Here, Barnstone draws from the canonical gospels, as well as the Gospel of Thomas, to present poetry that’s rich in imagery and a culminating sense of purpose. Pulitzer Prize finalist Barnstone should do this well; for readers of religion and poetry alike.

Flood, Gavin & Charles Martin, trans. The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. Norton. Apr. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780393081657. $25.95. RELIGION
People of a certain age (like me) will recall that talk about the Bhagavad Gita was everywhere during the Sixties. Of course, there’s been talk about this sacred text for millennia; the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God in Sanskrit) has its origins in the fifth century BCE. Here’s a chance to rediscover this 700-verse epic in a translation that blends true scholarship (Flood is academic director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies) with artistry (Martin is a distinguished poet and translator who was recently Poet in Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, my neighborhood Gothic Cathedral ). Check this out even if you already have a previous translation.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.