David Rivard on "The Skeptic's Prayer"
"There's a perversity that hangs over this poem, one that initially feels amusing, then begins to suggest a deeper urgency, if not need--what kind of skeptic would address himself so insistently to a Maker whose existence seems so doubtful? One who would like to believe, in spite of himself. To be convinced, and not just by himself. Preceded by a rather arch "alas," the repetition of "perhaps" at the end of the poem is a killer. Like they say, it keeps us honest.
I like how the poem skirts satire, even if this poet has swallowed a good dose of irreverence--the poem may be a mock-ode (a great American form, in the hands of masters like O'Hara and Dugan), but it retains a sense of vulnerability that gives the lyric detail an unexpected sincerity and affection at moments. Affection for the world and people, but not at all over-cooked. Wary but open. I'd say the poem has a lot of poise, even in the flood of abstract statement that comes in the last seven lines (the intelligence there is considerable). And there's a lot to admire in the music overall, the loosely iambic line and subtle rhyming. I'm grateful too for how the poem moves through the world, for how it travels from a private life into history and time. There's not enough of that these days."
David Rivard, Judge, 2009
Third Coast, Western Michigan University, Fall 2009