Thankful Thursday - Sheila Bender & Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief

Today I am giving thanks for a friend of mine, Sheila Bender, who was also my teacher many years ago when I was a freshman in college. I remember taking her class and being introduced to poetry in a way I hadn't before--she made it so fun and exciting.  Nothing like the poetry classes I had in high school.

Her class changed me for the better, it gave me a glimpse of poetic life, but still not sure what I was doing and with life continuing on, I lost my way a bit, went hiking into the corporate world for about 5 years, while she continued her passion for writing.

Fast-forward ten years--I've quit my corporate job & returned to a writing life. Somewhere along the writer's path, I bump into Sheila at a local reading, I reintroduce myself and thank her for her inspiration she gave me as a young writer.  We hug, she is gracious and giving and just as I remember her.

Life continues on.  I continue with my own writing and more and more, I hear about Sheila in the writing community.  We are on similar, but unique paths until our lives come together when her close friend and my mentor, Paula Jones Gardiner, passes away in 2008 and Sheila & I along with many wonderful donors, work together to create the Paula Jones Gardiner Poetry Prize for Floating Bridge Press.

For me, I definitely turn to poetry in a time of grief and Sheila has used her gift as a writer and poet to help us all.  So today, I give thanks to Sheila, her words, and her book that can help us all during difficult times.  Here's a description--

 A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief Poet and essayist Sheila Bender tells the story of her family and the family of her son's fiancée coming together, understanding that 25-year-old Seth Bender would be taken off life support. She writes about the months they faced together before the upcoming day that would have been his wedding day, and she tells the story of using poetry to write her way out of grief and find a way of carrying her son's life in her own, a way of understanding mortality and immortality. A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief is accessible, absorbing, and a bringer of peace to those who mourn.

A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief. This book about how poetry helps us understand what is most important to understand: our love, our mortality, our immortality.

Also, what's really wonderful is I learned you can order directly from the author and receive an autographed copy. $20 includes an $8 dollar donation to the Seth Bender Memorial Summer Camps Scholarship Fund, plus shipping and handling.

And if you're interested in what authors have said and/or purchasing the book, you can click here 

Sheila has a lot of great books from journalling, to writing essays, to writing poetry from personal experiences, even writing an essay to apply to college.

I think there are some people who were put here on their earth to inspire others, Sheila is this person for me.  Generous, loving, and so caring about her students, I am thankful to have her words in all our lives.  


  1. Kelli, thank you so much for this lovely post. I am thankful for so many of my fine teachers--those who continue to inspire me years after taking their classes. I hope I do the same for my wonderful students (who offer so much inspiration to me, as well!)

    Interestingly, I just "met" Sheila over e-mail, and I'm so looking forward to being in touch with her. "Gracious" is exactly how I would describe her!

    This book is something I must have, so I'm heading over to buy now. Thank you for your important work!!

  2. Hi Kate,

    How synchronistic to have "met" Sheila recently. Yes, she is wonderful. Thanks for stopping by here and for your note.

  3. I am a little late responding, but thank you Kells and thank you Kate for your lovely words. The writing world is a rich and full one and so valuable.


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