“The poems in Heavenly Body revolve around a worldly woman who burns very brightly. Undercutting the predictable sighs of travel – a Mexican market, Southampton Beach, a sunset cruise and cherry blossoms in Japan – Leah Stenson thrills to the quote “thwack of a meat clever,” worries over a daughter bobbing on a “dark rising swell,” gets lost “in a blur of Blue Hawaiis” and blossoms “against the night wind.” I really trust the life in these poems. I really love the joy.”

~ Henry Hughes, Harvard Review

“Leah Stenson’s world stretches from New York to Portland to Tokyo, and she speaks sometimes ruefully, always honestly about an equally wise range of emotions. The poems in Heavenly Body explore the pathos of loss and separation, reveal personal moments in the lives of friends and family, and trace the saga of long-distance love. Some take a leisurely view of childhood memory; others catch a fleeting moment in a few lyrical lines. Crafted by a generous-hearted writer, these poems are the record of a life lived zestfully.”

~Paul Merchant, William Stafford Archivist

“Leah Stenson’s poems in Heavenly Body are intriguing as they capture the sense of longing one has for a distant place or a lost love. The reader will be moved by this excellent collection.”

~Leah Maines, author of Beyond the River

Poem Selections

Three Generations at Southampton Beach
Southampton, Long Island

Grandma wants to go!
Unsteady in the surf,
I flail my arms, my shouts
drowned by the breakers.

Submerged, my daughter
bobs back up,
small white speck
on a dark rising swell.

We struggle toward the shore,
the sea rising and receding,
like Brigid’s breath,
undertow pulling at our feet.

Trudging back to Grandma
confined in her pool of shade,
heat waves ripple above
the bone-white sand we tread.


In the tropical Garden of Hana

nothing came between us, joining

the yang of ocean waves beneath the veranda

and the yin of a koi pond at the back door.

That night, a steady rain drenched the earth,

washing clean the years between us.


On the road back from Hana,

you risked the hairpin turns

retrieving cell phone calls

the closer we came to civilization.

By the time we reached Kihei,

only static flowed between us.

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Leah Stenson