A mother grapples with the long-ago loss of her son through poignant poems and letters addressed to him.
"Sheila Bender’s new volume SINCE THEN is a remarkable poetic account of the way a human being can transform mortal heartbreak into a sustaining love of the world. Sonically lush, elegantly imaginative, and formally diverse, the poems act as direct and indirect milestones in the life of a mother looking back on the life of a son who died decades ago. Pushing courageously beyond the keening of maternal pain, they depict her path forward into a radical appreciation of the present moment. Guided by four epistolary prose poems addressed to her son, the book is alive with both her striking self-examining lyrics about him as well as more outward-looking poems about the grace of our natural environment and the enhancing particularity of things. For me, the overarching achievement of Since Then is its rendering the way in which grief can—over time—be infused with a kind of receptive, awe-ready sentience that holds to memory while accepting finality. As she says in "Now," the book’s deeply moving final poem, she has come to "savor…who [her son] will always be." Readers who commit to Sheila Bender’s profoundly personal and philosophical verse exploration will find that this collection is near epic in its scope and project.
"'I read time now like a book,' Sheila Bender says, 'this life / broken into before and after.' Alternately heartbreaking and redemptive, the poems in this radiant collection teach us how to live with incalculable loss—the death of one’s child—and then go on, 'climbing toward the brightness we shared.' Artfully structured, each section of the book introduced by letters to her son, these intimate and consoling poems are a record of alert and tender noticing, of life deeply lived and celebrated, and of the hard-won knowledge that 'sorrow doesn’t have to be an unending pall but a source of deep loving.' Isn’t this why we read poetry? Since Then will go on the shelf of books I turn to for succor and delight, for help finding the way forward with grief into 'the only present possible,' alive and infused with wonder. The book is a gift to the world." —Alison Townsend, Emerita Professor English, author of Persephone in America and The Blue Dress
Sheila Bender Website
Sheila Bender co-founded WritingItReal.com in 2002 with her husband Kurt VanderSluis as a website dedicated to facilitating writing from personal experience. Over the years as the internet grew, the venue grew to include an array of online and Zoom classes as well as annual publications of anthologies. For five-plus years, Sheila produced the KPTZ FM radio program "In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life." She has taught for Centrum Foundation's Port Townsend Writer's Workshop as well as writers' conferences and centers, colleges, and universities across the West and Southwest, including a stint as Distinguished Guest Lecturer for Seattle University. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington, where she nurtures a big vegetable garden and dreams and writes overlooking Discovery Bay.