leahstenson_liferevised_memoir_cover“If we are to read poetry and prose together in words that speak directly to our spirit, let it be in the beautifully, heart embracing warmth and affection of the language of Life Revised. The complexity of Stenson’s work and clarity of language draws the reader into family dynamics, challenging us to bear witness to transcendence unfolding within and around us. Life Revised shows us how we can know ourselves, and through this discover healing of the heart and mind.”

~ Dr. Fanny Brewster, Jungian analyst and author of Archetypal Grief: Slavery’s Legacy of Intergenerational Child Loss


“In prose reflections and poems that invoke the landscapes, rooms, sounds and atmospheres of the past, Life Revised maps a journey from anger’s unknowing to new understandings and the perspectives they afford. In this moving and courageous book, Leah Stenson becomes, as she affirms, the author of her own life.”

~ Lex Runciman, author of Salt Moons: Poems 1981-2016


“Breaking apart a life of struggle, perseverance, despair, and hope into brief fragments that must resonate individually while, combined, paint a robust human portrait is a monumental task. But Stenson does it, somehow, magically, with wisdom and honesty, exploring the many contradictions and paradoxes of relationships—both familial and societal. Her ability to probe the human condition with such elegant prose and heartfelt poetry is a treat that remains fresh and vital to the last page.”

~John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another and Skin Memory


“Here is a modern woman boldly sharing her truth. Life Revised is both wise and compelling. Leah Stenson makes no attempt to disguise her troubles, mistakes, or regrets. Instead she shows us her winding path from trouble to understanding. Once I started following Stenson on her journey, I couldn’t stop reading.”

~ Penelope Scambly Schott, author of A is for Anne and Love Song for Dufur



Dark and light were

in separate universes

along with the sun and moon

the stars and the night

the saints and the sinners

the living and the dead,

and beauty couldn’t

co-exist with ugliness

and love couldn’t

co-exist with hate.

Then something opened

inside me, maybe when

they cut out my cancer

and left a scar the length

of my left breast.

Life came together then,

the good and the bad,

the pain and the pleasure,

the sadness and the joy.

I was no longer the same,

and I let it flow by

on the River Lethe

taking my sorrow out

into the depths

where it merged with the sea

of greater sorrow,

making my small sorrows smaller

until they were no longer necessary.


It would be an understatement to say that our relationship was difficult, but that didn’t deter me from accepting Bill’s marriage proposal. I was all of twenty-one that summer day on a hillside overlooking Harpur College in 1970. My mother disapproved of Bill—of his attitude, lifestyle, background, everything—and made sure I knew it. She even offered him a tidy sum to get lost. Bill refused, and we were married on January 30, 1971 at the Ethical Humanist Society. We wrote the wedding ceremony and vows, read poetry, and our friends performed Renaissance music. My parents paid for a modest reception at a restaurant on the Great South Bay. Bill could barely scrape up the $100 needed to rent the Society’s event hall.
    Our marriage was strained for many reasons, not the least of which was our experimentation with open marriage in those heady days of sexual revolution. However, unlike Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, the poster couple for open relationships, we lacked the wisdom and emotional maturity to make it work. I needed a break and told Bill I would come back to him after I got myself together. We filed the paperwork for a no-fault separation in 1975 and a friend chauffeured us in his Chevy convertible from the lawyer’s office to a restaurant where we celebrated our “Newly Separated” status.

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Leah Stenson