No good response to ‘faith’ poetry

Poetry Partners

Writing creatively online is lovely, an entirely different experience than writing privately for one’s self. There is, of course, the encouraging and helpful feedback we receive from fellow writers online, as well as the inspiration and exposure to new concepts we derive from reading their works. These are priceless.

Beyond these benefits, I recall being profoundly impressed when I first came across a poem online that had been written by two poets in collaboration, rather than just one author. The idea was enchanting, and it eventually led me to launch ‘Poetry Partners’ here at The Skeptic’s Kaddish, which is essentially an invitation to all poets to collaborate with me creatively. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to respond to so many beautiful poems written by other poets. It’s been such a privilege.

It’s been taking me some time to respond to all of the submissions that I receive, but I am committed to writing poems for all of my fellow collaborators! Since mid-October of last year, I’ve responded to and published 35 original pieces, written by some very talented poets; and I’m still going strong at the rate of two or three per week.

My personal limits and limitations

“Inappropriate” content

When I embarked upon ‘Poetry Partners’, I considered writing something like the following, which the lovely Gabriela, editor of MasticadoresUSA, recently posted regarding her publication:

MasticadoresUSA does not publish any work that contains racist, homophobic, sexist, and hate talk of any kind.

However, I decided against this for two reasons. First of all, I thought it unlikely that anyone would send me content of such an inappropriate nature (and I was correct in that assumption); and secondly, I reasoned that I could simply ignore and delete any such submissions…

“Faith” content

On the other hand, something I did not expect, which (in retrospect) I probably should have, is receiving submissions of poems professing the authors’ faiths and commitments to their religious identities. I have received very few such pieces, but I find myself unable to respond to them; and this leaves me feeling quite awkward.

Essentially, these poems are faith declarations, which I can respect but not relate to; and this leaves me with a conundrum. If I were to respond to them with verses of my own, I could only produce one of the following:

  1. A poetic expression of my cynicism about faith in the supernatural, which would most likely come across as confrontational, or at least as disrespectful;
  2. A poem amounting to a condescending “pat on the head” for the author who penned the ‘faith’ poem submitted (also inherently disrespectful);
  3. A work entirely untrue to myself. Essentially, a lie.

You can see why none of these alternatives appeal to me. Also, putting aside the fact that it’s never my intention to hurt somebody’s feelings, I have absolutely no desire to enter into disputes about religion and/or politics here at The Skeptic’s Kaddish. Endless, pointless arguments with believers deplete my emotional energy reserves; and this blog not a debate forum.


So, I ask myself, what now?

Do I respond to these poets and explain that their submissions are not appropriate for The Skeptic’s Kaddish? I’m leery of getting into a back-and-forth with a ‘true believer’ over theology, and not at all excited about the prospect of sharing my email address with random people.

Do I simply ignore these submissions? This is obviously easier, but it feels unkind to me (even though I never promised anyone a response); and I do aim to respect the humanity of every person. I’ve been very tempted to delete these works from my inbox, but I’ve yet to do so because I remain profoundly ambivalent about how to react.

What are your thoughts?

107 thoughts on “No good response to ‘faith’ poetry”

  1. Maybe have a reader of faith volunteer to respond in your absence?
    Or maybe your response could be a nod of understanding yet not agreance. But idk, not everything is a good fit for everyone.

  2. Okay. Fair enough. I will try and send you a link to it. Actually, it is on my blog on WordPress at underthetamarindtree. Best πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

          1. ❀ Lov ❀ ~ that lovely. I'm not really sure how I'd respond to it with a poem because prayer feels like a very intimate thing to me, and any poetic prayer I write would probably have to be written independently of somebody else's prayer, entirely based upon me and uninfluenced by another poet…

  3. David, You have written a very thoughtful and sensative response to your dilemma. It appears from the responses that you have many options to consider but you are already headed in the direction of authenticity and sensitivity. If I was on the receiving end, I would appreciate hearing from you as to what was troublng for you. Having said that I also understand your concern for shared emails. Best wishes as you ponder your options.

  4. It’s wonderful that you wish no disrespect but it’s your blog, David. You’ve responded delicately to this issue here, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t do the same in a response to their submission.

  5. There have been enough good suggestions in the comments about how to approach this appropriately, though I agree with not ignoring the submissions. I would simply add that you seem a genuine and tactful person and I’ve no doubt that however you approach a response, it will be with this same integrity and diplomacy. It’s beyond your control how it’s received.

  6. David, I just think that it is your blog and your decision – you are asking for a collaboration but that doesn’t diminish your control over your blog. If a poem doesn’t suit the criteria for a poetic partnership then a simple and direct note to the submitter is an easy and honest way to let them know and to ask for a different submission is a kindness…

  7. Ah well, religion certainly is a sensitive topic, and while writing cynical responses might offend the other poet, writing a lie can prove to be worse. Oh well, I’ve never come across particularly religious poems, so I don’t know how they sound…but hey, can’t you just post such content without responding, if you feel uncomfortable about writing a poem of your own? Anyways, its your call, I’m sure you’ll figure it out πŸ™‚

    1. I agree with him!
      I think David,
      you should declare some general criteria for poetic partnership. because poetic partnership doesnt have any bounds, and your blog has been especially good at that!

  8. Pen a scathing, hypercritical poem, and watch their temple burn …

    Perhaps not, that was just the β€œdevil” on my shoulder talking. Ah, there it is, a reference with religious connotations, unsubtly snuck in there – much modern language and culture is rooted in our ingrained religious histories, and even for us non theistic types, I believe there is a side of immense beauty to spectate, as well as the wealth of moral guidances.

    Personally, I would write a reply, and accept faith submissions under the pretext that your own poem will be just that, yours. A human response to the spiritual.

    1. Personally, I would write a reply, and accept faith submissions under the pretext that your own poem will be just that, yours. A human response to the spiritual.

      That’s an intriguing idea, Darius. I definitely have to think about it… I’m not sure anyone can promise that they won’t be offended, ya know?


      1. I would be more offended in being ignored, though, I think this well worded post has neatly wrapped it up for anyone paying attention.

        As long as people know what they are getting themselves in for, I see nothing but benefit in exploring contrasting poems, and opening thought. It also depends on if the idea is to compliment a persons work, whilst being objective (or, perhaps just matter of fact), or, whether it’s to tear someone’s ideals down, which I think would be uncomfortable for everyone.

  9. I think Issattitudeofgratitude nailed it. The sharing of intimate poetry is not the place to debate religion or any topic uncomfortable to the blog owner. The option to provide a different work is so thoughtful. Also a link to this post! Your concern over the conundrum is authentic and kind.

  10. David, I do not think you need to write anything now, as people would have got the message! That said, would you consider publishing, say, a secular prayer?

    1. I think I may send them a link to this post, Lov πŸ˜€ (just to make sure)

      In regards to your question, I’d have to think about it… it depends… If the secular prayer demands a dis-belief in any god – i.e., speaking of god’s non-existence as if it were obvious and clearly true, I would also have difficulty responding to that.

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