Sarah Laughed: Son­nets From Genesis

Judith Gold­haber; Ger­son Gold­haber, illus.
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
In fine Midrashic tra­di­tion, Judith Gold­haber writes sev­en­ty-three son­nets that play with a very human — and often iron­ic— take by Bib­li­cal char­ac­ters on the tremen­dous events in Gen­e­sis that they are a part of. Most focus is giv­en to Eve, Noah, Abra­ham, Jacob, and Joseph. Of these, the strongest poems are writ­ten in the first per­son. Eve won­ders about the oth­er woman in Adam’s life; Abra­ham mourns Sarah’s death with Isaac by his side. The least prob­ing con­cern Noah, stick­ing with sur­face con­cern for ani­mals on the ark; he doesn’t pon­der or regret. Con­ver­sa­tion­al lan­guage feels com­fort­able on the tongue, and most lines scan with unforced rhythm and rhyme. Many poems rise majes­ti­cal­ly to meet the dra­ma of the moment. The snake tempts Eve with the for­bid­den fruit of her burn­ing curios­i­ty: Ah! Lilith would have tast­ed it,” he hissed,/ and lat­er she and Adam would have kissed,/ her mouth delec­table with fra­grant spice,/ his soft tongue lap­ping up the juice that drips/​over her chin and breasts, so he could share/​her bold­ness and her sin. Yes, he would dare/​”. Col­or­ful water­col­ors echo the sen­su­al­i­ty, whim­sy, and inten­si­ty of dif­fer­ent scenes; one paint­ing faces each poem. Nudi­ty in a few of the illus­tra­tions will most like­ly keep this book on the adult shelves, but cre­ative think­ing that the son­nets inspire will also appeal to teens.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she has been help­ing stu­dents vis­it­ing 826 Valen­cia loca­tions around the city to write sto­ries and poems and get­ting adults up and retelling Jew­ish folk­tales to share with their own spin. 

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