My most recent collection of poetry, Texts to the Holy, was published by Ben Yehuda Press in 2018 and you can order a copy now! (The price is $9.95.)
Texts to the Holy is a collection of love poems in the tradition of the Song of Songs. the great Biblical poem that describes love between two human beloveds and is also read as an allegory for the love between us and God. It’s in the tradition of the medieval poet Judah ha-Levi, whose writings of yearning for God use human love as a metaphor. And it’s in the tradition of Adrienne Rich and Pablo Neruda, whose poems of human love and passion are suffused with awareness of the sanctity of the tangible and the everyday. These poems can be read purely as love poems from one human beloved to another, and they can be read as poems of love between a soul and her Source. This is deep emotion expressed in contemporary language, without sentimentality. The yearning heart finds reminders of the beloved everywhere. Even a text message can be a locus for holiness.
Here’s advance praise for the collection:
From Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of Surprised By God and Nurture the Wow:
The incomparable @velveteenrabbi has a new book of poems out, in the tradition of Rumi, Yehuda HaLevi, and Elazar ben Moshe Azikri. Get yours.
from Merle Feld, author of A Spiritual Life and Finding Words:
These poems are remarkable, radiating a love of God that is full bodied, innocent, raw, pulsating, hot, drunk. I can hardly fathom their faith but am grateful for the vistas they open. I will sit with them, and invite you to do the same.
from Netanel Miles-Yépez, translator of My Love Stands Behind a Wall: A Translation of the Song of Songs and Other Poems, and co-author (with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi) of A Heart Afire: Stories and Teachings of the Early Hasidic Masters.
Rachel Barenblat’s Texts to the Holy bridges the human and Holy, so that we realize the bridge is really just an illusion to get us to realize that the human is itself Holy—“Bless the One Who separates / and bridges. Even at a distance / we aren’t really apart.” And yet, in every honest line, she also comforts us in the uncomfortable knowledge that realization does not exactly bridge the unavoidable separation from That to which we are so close, and that sometimes, “yearning is as close as you get to whole.” The Ba’al Shem Tov or the Aish Kodesh couldn’t have said it better.
from Dale Favier, author of Opening the World:
These are simple poems, radiant with joy. There is nothing clever or snide about them, no giving-only-to-take-back: the speaker of these poems is in it for keeps. They are not — and do not pretend to be — artless: but they have a hard-won simplicity, poetic and spiritual. We are here to celebrate love, to celebrate wanting and being wanted, seeing and being seen. There are moments of tender humor, that might verge on blasphemy to those who do not take immanence seriously. But Barenblat takes immanence very seriously. The conflation of the divine and the beloved is not a device or a conceit, in these poems: it’s just the truth, as seen by a veteran, disciplined contemplative. To read these poems is to take up the challenge of being this vulnerable, and this much in love.
from Reverend Heidi Haverkamp, author of Advent in Narnia:
Texts to the Holy is a collection of sultry, passionate love poems… to God! Rachel has marvelously blended the holy sensuality of Song of Songs with the compact verbal rhythms of social media. Quite in contrast to most devotional writing, her words croon and sizzle, delight and reverberate. You can both read them to your beloved one and pray them to the Holy One. We religious folks should break out of our comfort zones and allow Rachel’s book to open up our hearts to a passionate love for God in prayer.