Are Christian publishers afraid of poetry?

Christian or not, book publishers have the same goal: Selling books. And Christian or not, book editors surely do not want to risk the reputations of their companies or themselves by publishing books apt to have few sales. That’s understandable, but if Christians are to be the head and not the tail of publishing trends, perhaps we might reconsider.

Would we have the poetry of Dante, Milton, Herbert, or Eliot if they were seeking publication today?

Would poems by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins find a place in our society?

Why does Amazon show 5,240 results for “spiritual poetry” and 22,634 for “religious poetry books” with many new titles released by traditional publishing companies, while 10,453 titles for “Christian poetry” merely include poems by Christians or present the works of poets long dead or overflow with self-published poetry that often demonstrates little thought of readers and no editorial input?

Readers, movie-goers, and television-watchers show an avid, sometimes morbid, interest in the afterlife and spiritual realm, so the “market” is obviously there, and the field is wide. Lord willing, I’ll post an overview of the exquisite Torah-based poetry of a Jewish poet this week on the Bible People blog because I am delighted to see poetry on a literary level bring Judeo-Christian scriptures to life. But we need more Christian poets and writers who speak in an educated, poetic voice to spiritual seekers.

We need more artistically winsome ways to win over people who see the church as irrelevant and win back Christians who have fallen away.

We need more Christian publishers ready to take a stand and take a chance that, yes, all genres have power. Poetry has power, and from the beginning – in the very beginning – was the most highly poetic Word.

© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. For articles on a variety of Bible topics, see Blogs by Mary. May God bless and guide our work in Jesus’ Name.


15 thoughts on “Are Christian publishers afraid of poetry?

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  1. Thanks for taking time to respond, Molly. Prayer is where any writing project starts a blessing! Also, as you read and study poetry by other people, your own poetry will most likely become more artistic too. God bless.

  2. I love your post!
    I love writing poetry and I desire to use it for God's glory and not mine! However, I do not have a very artistic speech. But I know God will use me if I ask him too!

    Thanks for your encouraging post about christian poetry 🙂

  3. Nancy, I've never wanted to pay to be published! My work has been traditionally published for years, but when I didn't find a publisher for my Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun, I uploaded it as an e-book on Kindle. No charge whatsoever except a percentage of the sales, which every publisher takes to stay in business. I understand I can do the same with CreateSpace for a print book, but I haven't had a chance to check it out. God bless your work.

  4. HI Mary
    I started a blog for my Christian Poetry back in August. I am unable to afford publishing a book right now so I opted for starting a blog. You can find min right here on blogspot. it is
    My name is Nancy(AKA to my scout group BlueJay).
    Looking forward to sharing with more Christians out there!

  5. I agree 100%…I love your blog! I'm going to add it to my blogroll and include a link to you on my poetry blog at

  6. Maybe you could put out a call for an editor. I did this to find a film reviewer for a blog I'm doing in conjunction with THE SUMMER OF NO REGRETS. I got some good responses. People often love to have an opportunity to write or edit, if they are only given the platform. So you could *host* it, but you wouldn't have to write it or manage the submissions. That could go to someone else.

  7. I think it is a matter of sales. New poetry, across the board, is primarily supported by small presses, with larger publishers only taking a chance on classic poets, or popular poets such as Billy Collins and Mary Oliver.

    As for Christian publishers, I seem to remember that Paraclete Press published the work of Irina Ratushinskaya. Image Journal is also a good place to go for poetry.

    I used to be the poetry editor for The Handmaiden, a journal for Orthodox Christian women, but that journal is now defunct, a victim of the economy. I discovered some lovely poets, though, and that was a great joy.

    Maybe some Christian poets need to come together to start a publication devoted to poetry. If it began online, the initial cost would be in labor and love. Something to consider?

  8. People can object to anything they want, including form, but the concern here was that Christian publishers may need to refocus their publishing plans. Poetry books sales rarely pay for the cost, but this form of communicating the message of Christ and strengthening faith can be highly effective and powerful in our troubled times. So I pray that Christian book publishers and editors will pray about this and do what they can to prepare the way for poetry to draw readers to Christ and the church.

  9. Poetry should be welcome by is just a form of expression. It can communicate even religious messages..therefore the point of objection can be the content but not the form…

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