SAID’s 99 Psalms are poems of praise and lament, of questioning and wondering. In the tradition of the Hebrew psalmist, they find their voice in exile, in this case one that is both existential and geographical. His decision to include 99 in this collection recalls the ancient Muslim tradition that ascribes 99 names to Allah, though the “lord” whom this psalmist addresses is not bounded by this or any other religious tradition. As psalms that turn to the “lord” with a lover’s vulnerability, they avoid every trace of sentimentality. Rather, they seek to open us to the mystery of human life, warning us of the difficulties we face in our attempts to live peaceably together in the midst of our differences.
“These psalms sound theurgent need for revelation, implying a strong corrective to our modern material life. It is a joy to witness the vision of such an arresting poet. This is a book to savor.”
—Maurice Manning, recipient of the 2009 HanesPoetry Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and author of The Gone and the Going Away
“Seldom have I found prayers such as these — that bypass the usual religious cliches to speak in an immediate, compelling, and living way. SAID is surely the beneficiary of truespiritual encounter! Here you will find insight, breadth, daring honesty and the kind of love that sees clearly because it has allowed itself to be seen.”
—Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM, and author most recently of Falling Upward
“Rarely do collections of prayers cut to the bone. These are prayers for passionate seekers and confounded believers, Muslim, Jewish or Christian. Taut-lined cries to God evoke the Hebrew psalms, yet their voice is from our world —speaking fiercely to what our current world forces upon us: the pierced and anguished heart in exile, wrestling Jacob-like with God while taking human flesh seriously to call our religious cliches into account.”
—Don E. Saliers, Wm. R. Cannon DistinguishedProfessor of Theology and Worship, Emory University andauthor most recently of A Song to Sing, A Life to Live
Names for God introduce the 99 Psalms by the Iranian poet SAID which Burrows has also translated from the German: “and I ask you o lord/ reveal all yournames to me/ even the last/ the hidden”. SAID writes as an exile, outside punctuation, and using capital letters only for his own name, ambiguous about who this “lord” might be. He is a god “who belongs to us”, who is urged to pray to us, and also to accompany the poet beyond “prayers and precepts”. These are “psalms” for the wanderer and the stranger, seeking to resume “the conversation” with this mysterious “lord”.
—The Church Times, October 2014
- Read an Excerpt
Longing as the Way: Mark Burrows on SAID’s psalm 36