Writer gains better understanding of God's word through poetry
Tonya Whitaker; InsideThePew.org
The Bible in Rhyme: Poetic License | Study aids or sacrilege?
Helen Gray; The Kansas City Star
Good Book gets new looks from two guys with local ties.
What’s your favorite version of the Bible? There are plenty of choices.
Some people swear by the King James. Others like newer versions that claim to use the latest scholarship. Still others prefer translations and paraphrases in everyday English.
And all sorts of specialized Bibles are available, aimed at everyone from women, men and teens to African-Americans.
Now two local authors, working independently, have put the Bible to poetry.
Kyle Holt of Overland Park produced “The Bible in Rhyme” and William Simmer of Lee’s Summit wrote “The Gospels in Rhyme.” Both were self-published last year.
Other rhyming Bibles and parts of Bibles can be found on www.Amazon.com, most for children. Those for adults are not as common, hence a niche for Holt and Simmer.
Linda Scott, manager of the Family Christian Store in Overland Park, said she has been with the company for 15 years and had never seen a rhyming Bible for adults.
Both writers say their projects were a calling from God.
“I just shake my head and can’t believe I did this,” Simmer said. “I don’t know where it came from. I just feel that my name shouldn’t be on it, that it was something given to me instead of something I produced.”
Holt said the project has given him and understanding of what it means when people say they were called to do something.
“That statement always made me cringe,” he said. “I thought that was a cheater’s way of saying ‘I wanted to do something.’ This is something I didn’t want to do at first.”
Simmer, a retired United Methodist pastor, was 87 when he started the project in August 2008. Through the years he had written poetry, even did a version of the story of Jonah that could be presented by a choir. “But it never got off the ground,” he said.
He had written parts of the Gospels in rhyme, and the idea to do all of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John kept nagging at him.
“I just sat down to try to see what I could do,” he said. “It was presumptuous of me to think I could do this, or that it should be done.”
Tricky parts were the more-familiar passages, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. He said he tried to rhyme without damaging the original words.
“When everyone knows those words so well, the challenge was to try to not hurt people’s memory of what they remembered,” he said.
But his intent was this: “I wanted to see if I could put the Gospels in a form that would capture people’s minds and perhaps in a form that they could remember. I wanted people to look at the Gospels in a different light. Maybe a fresh way of looking at the Bible would help us all.”
The book’s cover asks the question, “Why not sing the Scriptures?” And Simmer’s hope is that a choir will take portions of the book and use them as part of a service.
Since the Gospels, Simmer has kept going, finishing the Psalms a month ago and just completing the Book of Acts.
“I’m having fun, not just sitting around in retirement,” he said. “And I keep out of my wife’s hair. Whether it strikes anyone else’s fancy is up to them. I see this as my calling.”
Holt, 32, had been out of church from age 12 to about 23. Owner of a software development company, he married right out of college, and he and his wife, Kim, decided when they had children they wanted to raise them going to church.
They began to attend the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood and later started a Sunday School class with other young couples.
Back in church with two young sons, he began to think more about the Bible. He had composed songs when he was in a high school rock band and had written poetry, but the idea of rhyming the Bible “just popped into my head,” he said.
“I remember it lasted almost a year; sometimes I could hardly sleep.”
One of those sleepless nights in 2005, he went downstairs and started working on the computer. He thought he would start with Genesis and try to rhyme it, then see how impossible it was and get it out of his system.
Instead he found the words coming easily. After about an hour, he had finished the first chapter.
“I had hoped this would be really hard and wouldn’t be any good,” he said. “But it had the kind of rhythm I wanted and was so easy to do. So I decided I would do it.”
The hardest parts to do were the stories, because it was sometimes difficult to find substitute words that rhymed. He said the hardest book was Matthew, because Jesus said so many important things, and Holt didn’t want to skip any. The most fun was the Song of Solomon, “because it is already a poem.”
“Some sections I have more words in a chapter than the actual biblical text because I had to use more words to get to that next line. I was committed to be as complete as possible.”
But he conceded that some things were left out.
“My purpose was to put the message into a form that is easier to understand, that could be a portal into the Scriptures,” he said.
Holt said two publishers were interested in the book, but he and his brother, Bryce Holt, decided to publish it themselves.
Many sections are posted on Kindle, Amazon’s electronic book reader. Others are coming, he said, and he also wants to produce an audio version.
Simmer has been encouraged by the feedback.
“Some people have read the whole thing, all the way through, saying they couldn’t put it down,” he said. “One man said he had not read the Bible in years.”
Holt said his feedback has been good and bad.
“When I get positive feedback, books sell,” he said. “When I get negative feedback, books really sell. My book was one of the books burned by a church in North Carolina that didn’t use anything but the King James version.”
But he also has been encouraged. For example, some Jewish friends read the New Testament who otherwise wouldn’t have read it. And during the Christmas season, many people bought a book for themselves and then bought others as gifts, he said.
N. Blake Hearson, Old Testament and Hebrew professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the two books could be tools to help people look at the Bible and the Gospels in a new way and to create a fresh interest in the Scriptures.
However, he said, it’s unlikely they will be used by Christian traditionalists who take “the ideas of inspiration and inerrancy seriously.”
“The reason for this is the free license taken with the biblical text,” said Hearson, who is also a book review editor of the Midwestern Journal of Theology. “They are very creative and interesting but do freely cut and paste the biblical text in order to force the text to rhyme in a sing-song manner reminiscent of certain greeting cards.”
His concern is that some people might take these works as authoritative Bibles. But “they should not be mistaken for Bibles or the Word of God. They are creative works based on the Bible,” he said.
The Rev. Molly Simpson, campus pastor of the Church of the Resurrection West, said she used a passage from Holt’s book as a benediction in worship and “it was a great way to send everyone out.”
She said the rhyming “gives the text a cadence that we don’t usually find when reading the text in English, whereas much of the Hebrew text engages rhythm and meter.”
“If properly understood as a paraphrase, rather than a biblical translation, a rhyming Bible could be a great tool to add variety to your regular devotional life,” she said.
“We regularly use supplementary material when engaging Scripture – devotional reflections, commentaries, pastor’s sermons, blog material, study notes, etc.,” Simpson said. “I wouldn’t make a rhyming Bible your primary tool for study, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be in the toolbox.”
To reach Helen Gray, religion editor, call 816-234-4446, or e-mail email@example.com
First-time Author Transforms Bible to Rhymes
Jennifer Bhargava; The Kansas City Star
Kyle Holt is not a pastor. He is not a biblical scholar. He is just a guy who likes to rhyme.
His passion for poetry took a turn three years ago when he decided to rewrite the entire Bible in rhyme.
“I got up at midnight and went to the computer just to prove to myself how impossible it was and how bad I would make it,” Holt said with a laugh. “But then I cranked out Genesis One in about an hour and it wasn’t bad. I began to believe that I was actually called to do it.”
The Overland Park resident spent one and a half years rhyming the Bible and another year and a half editing his work.
He just recently published his book, “The Bible in Rhyme,” through his own publishing company, Minor Planet Press. He is currently working on getting it put on Kindle, Amazon.com’s electronic book reader.
Looking back at the past few years, the married father of two can’t believe he managed to rewrite the most famous book in the world.
After all, when the 32-year-old is not busy chasing his kids around or volunteering at church, most of his time is spent doing his job: being the president of a software company based in Overland Park.
Plus he had never written a book before.
As a teenager, he wrote songs for his rock band and dabbled in poetry on the side. Rhyming was a natural part of the process.
When he began rhyming the Bible, his talent was put to the test.
It was a challenge because he didn’t want to lose the message behind each story, but at the same time he wanted the rhythm to flow.
“It’s hard to find words that rhyme with Melchizedek,” he said, referring to a name found in Genesis. “I had to do a lot of rearranging of words and names.”
While rhyming the Bible, he didn’t tell anyone what he was doing out of fear they would think he was nuts.
But when he put his work up on his website, friends, and even strangers, couldn’t stop raving about it. “The Bible in Rhyme” was quickly downloaded 500 times. The fast-paced online popularity inspired Holt to get the book published.
In order to keep creative control of the book, Holt and his brother started their own publishing company, Minor Planet Press, in Overland Park and decided to publish it themselves.
His brother, an author of suspense thrillers, couldn’t be prouder.
“It was a terrifying project to take on because it invested so much time,” said Bryce Holt, a 29-year-old from Lenexa. “But it was an amazing feat and Kyle did a great job. I’m very proud of him.”
Unfortunately for Holt, not everyone feels the same. Since the book was released, bloggers have enjoyed ripping the Overland Park native apart.
The cruel comments and negative feedback don’t bother Holt, however.
As long as he can get people talking about the Bible, he’s happy, he said with a grin.
He also wishes more people would understand that his book is meant to accompany the Bible, not replace it.
“This is a poetic synopsis – not a translation – of scriptures written thousands of years ago,” he said. “I don’t want people to start using this as their own Bible.”
He hopes people will use his book to regain their own Christianity or inspire faith in non-believers.
Plus he believes it’s a unique way to get the Bible’s message across to anyone from kids to senior citizens.
Holt spends almost every night reading passages of his book to his 4-year-old son, Noah. The young boy gets a kick out of the biblical rhymes.
“Giving young kids the King James version of the Bible is like giving them Valium,” Holt said. “It helps to have an attention-grabber. My book can be used as an introduction to the Bible, as a way to help everyone understand it better.”
Just writing the book did the same for Holt.
“I now have a better understanding of the Bible because I had to re-read it over and over again,” he said. “I wish more people would read the Bible and figure out what it means to them, because there are a lot of people misappropriating the Bible for harmful purposes. I hate to see the Bible used politically rather than spiritually.”
Now that his biblical adventure in rhymes is over, the newly published author is showing no signs of slowing down.
Holt is currently helping his brother look for more local authors to publish at their company. He is also working on his next project: a rhyming play.
To reach Jennifer Bhargava, call 816-234-7737 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle Holt has rewritten the Bible as "Bible in Rhyme," a project that took three years of writing and editing. Holt reads his book to his children, Noah (left) and Jonah.
The Bible in Rhyme on Amazon's Kindle
Sections of The Bible in Rhyme are now available on Kindle, Amazon's e-book reader. The sections will be released as one or multiple books at first, and after all are posted, the full e-book for The Bible in Rhyme will be available.
"This is exciting," said Holt. "With more people switching to e-books, this was one of my goals. I want to make this accessible to everyone."
Sections that are currently available include:
- The Bible in Rhyme: Genesis
- The Bible in Rhyme: Exodus & Leviticus
- The Bible in Rhyme: Numbers & Deuteronomy
- The Bible in Rhyme: Joshua, Judges, & Ruth
Interview with Kyle Holt
Homemaker Hero Blog Reviews The Bible In Rhyme
The Homemaker Hero blog posted a review of The Bible in Rhyme on its site today and also is giving away a signed copy of the book.
In the blog posting, Homemaker Hero said, "This rhyming Bible is sure to engage a new audience who might not otherwise read the Bible. It would certainly make a unique Christmas gift for any believer or non-believer. It can be used as a resource for Bible study and as a source of inspiration."
The review also included an interview with Kyle Holt, in which he discussed what inspired the book. Read the full review.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, October 12, 2009
Minor Planet Press
Minor Planet Press makes a bold debut by publishing a contemporary, rhythmic adaptation of The Holy Bible
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Today, upstart publisher Minor Planet Press orbits into the publishing galaxy with a historic product that targets a new audience. From students to teachers, farmers to preachers and Facebook fans to modern moms, people can experience the Bible in a way they never imagined - as rhyming poetry.
With mainline church membership declining worldwide, writer and entrepreneur Kyle Holt was inspired by his own faith and life experience to engage a new kind of audience. He challenged himself to connect with non-religious and nominally religious adults, as well as children, teenagers, young adults and others who might enjoy a new outlet to God’s vision. He rose to the challenge by translating the traditional Holy Bible into a rhyming poem using modern, everyday language.
Available for purchase online through Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and BooksaMillion.com, The Bible in Rhyme is an amazing portal into the scriptures. Author Kyle Holt set out to entice people to open this new rhythmic Bible and witness the poetry of the ancient texts come alive.
The Bible in Rhyme is a book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter retelling of Christianity's Holy Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, all in rhyme. It brings the word of God to individuals and families in a way that is enjoyable and easy to remember. Readers can share the cornerstone of faith in quiet reflection or out loud with friends and family.
At 150,000 words, The Bible in Rhyme is an epic poem with comfortable and entertaining poetry. It contains more than 10,000 rhymes and has many applications - from the private daily devotional, to the public sharing of Bible-inspired text in a church setting. This modern adaptation of the Bible will help bring the scriptures alive for children and adults alike. It can be used as a resource for Bible study and as a source of inspiration.
Beginning in April 2006, Holt embarked on a journey to better understand the Bible. He dedicated a large number of his evenings and weekends to what he felt the Lord was calling him to do. He's not a pastor, a professor, or a prophet.
"Actually, I feel quite humbled," Holt said. "After the idea for The Bible in Rhyme came to me, God just wouldn't let me ignore it. Genesis 1 flowed out of me so naturally - and the words just kept coming."
Holt owns a small business in Overland Park, Kan., where he lives with his wife and two sons.
The Bible in Rhyme is available in paperback, with e-book, and audio formats coming soon. For more information or to purchase a copy, please visit www.thebibleinrhyme.com.
# # #
Title: The Bible in Rhyme
Cover photo: Available at www.minorplanetpress.com/bible-in-rhyme-media
Publication: October 6, 2009
Website: www.minorplanetpress.com, www.thebibleinrhyme.com
About Minor Planet Press
Founded in 2009, Minor Planet Press is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas. The company’s initial publishing pursuits range from religious poetry to suspense thrillers. A complete line of services related to book editing, formatting, cover design, and online distribution is available to Minor Planet authors, with an emphasis on utilizing technological advances available through print-on-demand publishing. Authors maintain control of all rights to their materials.
The Bible in Rhyme will be published and publicly available on October 6th! Yesterday the book went to press, and we are anticipating a smooth road to publication. It is a very exciting time.
After a year and a half, the first draft has turned into the final draft. The Bible in Rhyme is now available as a free download!
Publication in additional formats such as book, e-book, and audio book are currently being explored, but there's no time like the present to start your exploration of the world's second longest rhyming poem ever written! God bless you today!
After 20 months of study, work, and re-work, Kyle Holt has completed the first draft of The Bible in Rhyme.
Upon completion, Kyle said, "I really think that this stands in a category of its own. The Bible in Rhyme is not a poetry book - it is one poem. It is not non-fiction - it is the Truth. I've been humbled by this whole process. God gifts each of us with gifts and talents. Mine I guess is rhyme. So I'd better use it for His purposes. Twenty months seems long, and yet it doesn't seem long at all."