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?

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

  1. A partnership should denote some common ground. You have made your religious leaning/uprightness very clear from the very beginning, so they shouldn’t have sent a poem on faith in the first place. If they follow you, they must have read this post and got the message. But I personally feel you should mail them and thank them and ask if they would like to send another one.

    1. Punam – I have to admit that I feel this way regarding somebody submitting faith-based content to a blog called the “skeptic’s” kaddish… but perhaps they just saw one post of mine and didn’t put two and two together. Not everyone who has submitted a poem to me has interacted with me a lot beforehand…

      1. That is strange but then who am I to judge others.
        You be you, David. You can never hurt anyone purposely. ❤️
        By the way, may I share our poetry partnership on my blog?

  2. I’m always surprised that belief and faith, things that are supposed to unite, are so divisive. I write freely in either direction knowing full well that ‘someone’ may be offended, or feel the need to “correct” me. 😬. I appreciate your predicament. Just be honest with people who submit. I enjoy your work David. Keep doing what you’re doing sir 🙏🙏

    1. Nigel – my perception of religions is that they tend to represent mutually exclusive truths. That does not feel unifying to me personally… and it has to do with why I don’t feel comfortable responding to somebody else’s faith.

      I really appreciate your feedback – thank you so much.

      Much love,

  3. I am a convert to Christianity so can understand what it’s like to read poetry declaring strong or assumed religious convictions as an unbeliever.
    Lots of my poetry is about faith or takes the position of assuming the truth of what I believe and it’s some of my best stuff because it comes from passionate love. I’m ado used to people not knowing how to respond to faith, even conversationally, as well as creatively.
    As a creative who sends work I am also used to receiving generic responses to submissions and being ignored.
    You’ve essentially offered a response here which many people of faith are more accustomed to than reactions of reciprocity and appreciation, so having a similar spiel to this either as a personal response (so you’re not ignoring them) or beforehand is fair.
    Your reasons are good and to do with genuine respect for the other (not condescending as you say) and also to protect your creative integrity which is vital.

  4. Once you find God David you will be able to do this collab 😂
    You have…. Remember: parenting and Brie Matzah! ❤️ .. it could be interesting if you substituted those in your responses..
    Actually, after u asked me to submit, I wondered what you were going to do with them cuz I didn’t hear back for quite awhile. I do think closing the loop or some kind of communication is important and announcing it like Gabriela does would be a good thing.
    Good luck! 🍀 ❤️

    1. I agree, Cindy. Thank you.

      Actually, in a couple of cases, I did send ppl emails to let them know that I received their submissions, but my emails went into their spam folders… In general, I always send ppl an email when I receive their poems.


      1. You’re welcome!
        Best idea yet:

        Blame it on spam
        it’s mostly true neeways.
        my mom is upset i haven’t commented but it’s not here so i best go there to see.. 💃💃🤷‍♀️🏃🏼‍♀️🏃🏼‍♀️
        that’s me running towards myself and away at the same time. lol 🤣

  5. I don’t know a writer who doesn’t learn to interpret a non-response as “this is not for me/us,” and sometimes that’s all it needs to be. I sympathize with this vague revulsion to the certainty that so many self-professed faithful claim to embody. I’m a huge fan of the idea (I think I first encountered it in the writings of Richard Rohr) that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.

  6. Perhaps refer them to this post, as it articulates the conundrum really well. I find faith poems tricky at the best of times, especially when someone seeks feedback on their work. Faith will always be so personal, and I don’t feel it’s an appropriate topic for collaboration unless explicitly stated from the start. (I really hope that last sentence makes sense outside my own head.)

    1. Carol ~ actually that’s exactly what I’m thinking of doing! Thanks to you and all the other kind people who offered me advice here. It was really helpful for me put this out there and work it out in my head 🙂

      Much love,

      1. I believe you need to respond to them privately — don’t leave them hanging. Thank them for their submission, tell them you will not be publishing and responding. Point them to this post for further info. Tell them they should go ahead and publish on their own blog.

  7. Hi David, I was sure that I had answered this. Anyway – one of the first things to note is that among other things Religious Belief carries a very heavy Psychological component. People have different levels of maturity and security in their belief systems and can actually be damaged if anyone throws contempt or doubt upon these beliefs. There is no way to know how mature and secure a poet might be when they profess their faith. They may be looking for ratification? When challenged they might be more hurt than just having their manuscript rejected – so to speak.

    Since you have received so many, do do something with them or write privately that you do not feel proficient enough to deal with such a sensitive topic. Or write a Job like response with all his faithful friends sticking their oars in and his wife giving him a hard time. I’ll see what I can write and then you can counter it in your disbelief, non belief but your response needs to be heart felt and genuine, – it won’t be in any true poetic form. I write prose poetry with back to front sentences.

    1. Andrew, thanks so much for your response. I have no interest in going back and forth with anybody else about the subjects of faith and religion. To me, they’re too personal and too indescribable – I just don’t want to go there online with anyone else.

      Shabbat shalom,

  8. I think you ought to accept them, afterall they have written something they care about. You might try a black and white approach – a Job like event. You can write a poem about your own religious beliefs – everyone has one even disbelief is belief in something. I wouldn’t underestimate yourself. This is Art, literature, not Theology.

    1. Honestly, I just don’t want to. I feel that religion and faith are very personal, and I’m not interested in exploring mine in relation to somebody else’s. If I choose to write about these subjects, it’ll be on my own terms… I’ll give these individuals the option of submitting poems that are not faith-related.

      Shabbat shalom,

  9. You fortunately do have the option of ignoring. An public invitation leaves you open to input from sources you cannot respectfully or with good conscience respond to. What a burden? No. Responsibility yes, but burden, no.

  10. “Duelling Banjos” comes to mind. It’s a paradoxical title suggesting something adversarial that, in its execution, becomes delightfully harmonious. Worth taking the risk? I think so!

    1. Not for me, Pilgrim. I’m not interested in convincing or being convinced. It’s just a waste of energy for me – I’ll leave the adversarial poetry writing to others.

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