Sunday, September 23, 2012

Free Copy: Behind Us the Way Grows Wider by Sheila Bender

Sheila Bender's New and Collected Poems
Sheila Bender's new collection Behind Us the Way Grows Wider considers the full spectrum of a life well lived. This book brings together a selection of Bender's work from nearly thirty years. Poems like "First Sex After the Loss of Our Son" and "Six Months After My Son's Death, I Chant to Sing For Him" are beautiful pieces that manage to express grief in compelling and fresh ways. However, this is not a book focused on loss as much as it is a celebration of the resiliency of those of us who find a way to travel on past catastrophe.

The final section of the book, my favorite, is called How It Is Now: New and Uncollected. This section takes a few lines from Hafiz as its epigraph.

Of a great need
We are holding hands
                      And climbing.

I love the generosity of this quote and believe its message is at the heart of this strong collection.

Two of my favorite poems in the collection --- but there are many more to love: "In February" is from the first section of the book and "A New Theology" from the final one.

In February

Today the cherry tree is grey
as fossil. On its bare boughs
raindrops are winter pearls.

Yesterday a brief change in the weather.
High in the branches a robin,
the fat warrior of spring,
held its breast to the early sun.

Suppose when my letter reaches you,
I have fallen from your memory
like ripe fruit. That would be
most perfect, to remain the pull
of something finished.

Or perhaps my name still slips
to your tongue as words
sometimes slip. For cabbages and sunlight
you’d say my name, for canoe, laurel,
minnow and finch. The wind is old
and carries many words.

I loved you. I loved you.

A New Theology

For Seth Bender, 1975-2000

Who has no likeness of a body and has no body
is my son, now five months dead
but in my dreams, my dreams he brings the peace in gardens.

And I see him in his smile and he is hardy
in the rolled up sleeves of his new shirt, well-fed
when he has no likeness of a body and has no body.

I see him next to me in conversation at a party
and I believe that he is fine because this is what he said,
because in my dreams, my dreams I sit with him in gardens.

The nights he comes, the cats moan long and sorry.
I believe they see his spirit entering my head,
he who has no likeness of a body and has no body.

In my life, accepting death comes slowly,
but the midwifery of sadness and of shock bleeds
afterbirth, dreams that bring the peace in gardens.

I know that he is far and he is here and he is holy.
Under sun, I feel the energy it takes to come away from God
who has no likeness of a body and has no body
who is in my dreams, the dreams that bring me gardens.

If you would like a free copy of Behind Us the Way Grows Wider, please leave me a comment and you will be entered in a drawing. If you win, Sheila will send you a signed book. Just leave your comment anytime between now and September 30th at midnight Pacific time. It's that quick and easy.


  1. Oh, I would LOVE a copy!!! Thanks!

    1. I would love a copy. Sheila is a wonderful teacher and writer.

  2. I have loved Sheila's writing and advice on writing for so many years. Have always wanted to work with her. I would treasure this book. I can't imagine losing one of my sons. My copy of "New Theology" is a marked up mess of word love. Her poems speak to me from the depths. Thanks Susan.

  3. Beautiful poems. I'd be delighted to own the collection.

  4. Thanks, Susan, for sharing with us another great poet. Please enter me in the drawing.

  5. "The wind is old and carries many words"...I love that! I, too, would love to win the book. Cool idea.

  6. Oh wow - sounds like a magnificent book. Would be very welcome among my poetry books.

  7. What a lovely offer. It would be wonderful to receive such a gift.

  8. Sounds like an awesome book. I would like to have a copy! And I would like to thank Susan for introducing me to your work :)

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Ibtihal!

  9. I'll enter! The book sounds WONDERFUL! Thanks, Susan!

  10. Sheila Bender was one of my first writing heroes. Please enter me! Thank you!

  11. These poems of loss are exquisite. Please enter me (in the contest!). :)

  12. Her work is lovely--I'd love a copy. Also love the quote by Hafiz and have to share that! Thanks, Susan!

  13. Please enter my name in the drawing. I love Bender's work.

  14. I love Sheila's work and will pick up a copy either way.

  15. Sheila's poetry is so heartfelt and lovely. She has commented on many of my poems and made them successful. If I don't win a copy, I'm buying one!

  16. Just to let everyone know; Valentine G. won the free copy of Sheila's book! However, as many of you said, it's totally worth it to buy this one. Thanks for participating!