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Threads from a Coat of Many Colors: Poems on Genesis

by Yakov Azriel


"And God said, 'Let the earth bring forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and every kind of fruit-tree that bears fruit with the seed inside, on the earth'; and it was so." (Genesis 1:11)


The chlorophyll in the plants
The sunlight,
To transform
Nutrients from the soil, water and air
Foliage and flower and fruit.

When I look into myself:
Water's no problem;
And plenty of hot air and dirt;
But where is the chlorophyll
That can capture
The Light
That infiltrates, invades, pervades and surrounds me?

"To photosynthesize,
The chlorophyll of Torah
Will grant you a gardener's green thumb,
So that whatever you touch
Grows sacred green."
Was this my imagination?
Or did the leaves on the bushes whisper their secret to me?


Threads from a Coat of Many Colors, Yakov Azriel's first book of poetry, is a compelling poetic investigation of the first book of the Old Testament. These poems weave connections between modern life and the persistent echoes of the Bible. They radiate a fierce intelligence and shimmer with breathtaking tenderness and beauty. Threads from a Coat of Many Colors heralds the arrival of a noteworthy new voice in the poetry of religious reflection.


By turns solemn, playful, anguished and antic, Yakov Azriel's work comprises a respectful, rigorously imaginative, compelling poetic investigation of the narratives of the Old Testament and the tradition sustained by it.

Azriel dispatches myriad verse forms each accompanied by an epigraph from Genesis to inhabit the lives and hearts of this foundational text's key figures, to uncover its meanings, and to appeal to its God. The result is a lyrical weaving of midrash, metaphor, anecdote, and insight whose intimacy, immediacy, and eloquence will speak powerfully both to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike.
— Carey Monserrate, managing editor of CrossCurrents

Yakov Azriel . . . writes intricately orchestrated odes to existence that are framed by his close and devoted reading of Jewish Scriptures. In Threads from a Coat of Many Colors, his brilliantly conceived midrash on Genesis, Azriel has given us nearly 70 poems that radiate a fierce intelligence and shimmer with breathtaking tenderness and beauty.
— Charles Fishman, poetry editor of New Works Review and poetry consultant to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Yakov Azriel's Threads from a Coat of Many Colors is a lovely meditation on biblical, midrashic and kabbalistic materials, intercrossing them with contemporary images and concerns. In this the volume realizes one of the most powerful forces in poetry . . . which is its sources in spiritual life, its long history in affinity to prayer. . . . Weaving myriad connections between our immediate lives and worlds and the continuing call of biblical echo and imagery, this volume is delightful to experience, an invitation to the reader to ongoing relationship with sources that prove to be one's own.
— Shira Wolosky, author of Poetry and Public Discourse, from The Cambridge History of American Literature

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