Books by Lenfestey | Order Form

Forthcoming, FALL, 2024:

by James P. Lenfestey
Milkweed Editions

Fall, 2024


Selected and Edited by James P. Lenfestey
Red Dragonfly Press

Copyright 2009, reprinted 2022
32 pages

A selection, with introduction, of the poems by Stephen Crane published in two editions, BLACK RIDERS AND OTHER LINES, 1895, and WAR IS KIND, 1899, plus 3 posthumous poems, by a man who died, at 28, of tuberculosis. Famous for his war novel RED BADGE OF COURAGE and as author of some of America's finest short stories, he liked his poems best, writing his literary mentor Hamlin Garland in 1896, "Personally i like my little book of poems, THE BLACK RIDERS, better than I do the RED BADGE OF COURAGE. The reason is, I suppose, that the former is a more serious effort. In it I aim to give my ideas of life as a whole, as far as I know it. The other is a mere episode- an amplification." He is not alone. John Berryman, in his 1950 biography of Crane, called him "the important American poet between Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson on the one side, and his tardy-developing contemporaries Edward Arlington Robinson and Robert Frost and Ezra Pound on the other...." I find his poems stark, singular and unforgettable. Many years ago I acquired copies of his small editions, and from them and other sources have made this memorial. Originally published by Scott King of Red Dragonfly Press in 2009, it has been reprinted for the first time by the press in 2022 in response to increased interest in Crane sparked by novelist Paul Auster's remarkable full length study, BURNING BOY: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane, Henry Holt, published in 2021.


by James P. Lenfestey
Nodin Press

October, 2021

"It's a wonderful book, and it does something most column "collections" don't manage--achieves its own narrative trajectory. I read with eagerness to see what would happen next. It's partly the wise choice of the seasons, four "movements" like Vivaldi. Also the super-local, even civic, commitment, moving deftly into the national and global. Finally it's the voice, so winning! Laced with a glinting thread of humor, this is a chronicle for our times."
--PATRICIA HAMPL, member of the permanent faculty of the Prague Summer Program, author of The Art of the Wasted Day

"These essays by James P. Lenfestey record 'the full catastrophe of life' (as Zorba put it) heartily embraced, family and nature deeply savored, social conscience thoroughly engaged. This essay collection adds up to a field guide for living and creating vital communities. Their generosity makes the rest of us grateful."
--ERIC UTNE, founder of Utne Reader and author of Far Out Man, Tales of Life in the Counterculture

"Boy, did I enjoy this book! I laughed out loud. I wondered. I shook my head in admiration. I vowed to change some things. There may be readers who could treat themselves to just one of these essays a day, but I couldn't keep from reading one after another. Seasons of the Urban Coyote answers the call in Wendell Berry's counsel: Be joyful / though you have considered all the facts."
-- BART SUTTER, author of Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map and Nordic Accordion

Poems on the Art of Poetry

Edited by Robert Hedin and James P. Lenfestey
White Pine Press

263 pages,  $20
September, 2021

The Uncommon Speech of Paradise showcases the work of 120 modern and contemporary poets from seventeen countries-Seamus Heaney, Czeslaw Milosz, Pablo Neruda, and Anna Akhmatova-as well as works by such premier American poets as John Ashbery, Rita Dove, Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, Robert Bly and Wallace Stevens. Together, they offer compelling voices, styles, and perspectives on the theory, practice, and purpose of the ancient and timeless art of poetry.

"This extraordinary anthology acts as both a capacious gathering of meditations on the art of poetry and a stunning testament to the lasting power of language in our experience and in our lives. This collection is not a retrospective 'lament' for the makers but instead a true celebration of the making itself, spoken by poets in (sometimes troubled) praise of-and always in intimate conversation with--the act and art of the writing of poetry.


"In Lenfestey and Hedin's deft arrangement, the one hundred twenty-five contemporary poems gathered here reignite a centuries-old transcultural conversation on one of the most enduring arts.  How fortunate we are not only to be granted access, but to be inducted into its intimate vocabularies.

A Love Story

by James P. Lenfestey
Finishing Line Press

Chapbook, 15 pages, $13.99
January, 2020

"In Thirteen September Moons, James Lenfestey, generally a poet of robust, solar, high-spirited voice, surprises us with a new voice, nocturnal, literally lunar, perhaps the solar voice at low ebb. This voice is "angelic" in the way of Wim Wenders's contemporary angels who watch half-envious, half-horrified the brash glories of human life from a disincarnate distance. This moon-angel voice is a cunning vehicle for mirroring back to us earthlings our abundance of terrestrial treasures and our reckless endangerment of them. Profoundly environmental, these poems ask utterly necessary questions of us, such as "what terrible more / are you capable of?" and "what do you say / to the darker person next to you / forever a part of your life?" This book is an unsettling gem."
--THOMAS R. SMITH, author of Windy Day at Kabekona and The Glory

Mackinac Poems Old and New

by James P. Lenfestey
Red Dragonfly Press
Paperback, 66 pages. $16
August, 2019

"What lively, charming, thoughtful poems! I'll be coming back to them many times. The mere example of a poet looking carefully at a bird, a mouse, a bat, and finding just the right, accurate words to describe it, is infinitely valuable in this age of abstract and vaporous lies."
--EDITH RYLANDER, author of They've Packed Up the Rock and Roll, New and Selected Poems.

"In East Bluff James Lenfestey shares the heart-shaped agates and wind-kissed feathers he has gathered over many years.  The poems delight us, an unknown bird in cedar boughs; they strike us, an owl swooping down on the garden vole.  Yet we sense, coursing through the whole collection, like the ever-present current through the Straits, a wisdom that comes only from a life well-lived, where there is 'so much known, yet you still wake wondering.'" 
 --THOR BACON, author of Making the Shore.

"Not much gets by East Bluff Bard James Lenfestey.  From sunup to moonrise, he is on watch registering the phenomena of Mackinac moment to moment. He defines spirits out of the fog and has the nerve to eulogize the presence of omnipresent mice. The odes and lyrics of East Bluffare cunningly and curiously arranged as witness to wonders simple and wonders, but for him, unseen."
--JAMES BOGAN, author of Mackinac Suite and Seven Wonders of Mackinac. 

'James Lenfestey's poetry is by turns wide-open and up-close. In East Bluff: Mackinac Poems Old and New, he turns his seasoned eye and ear to the flora, fauna and families that echo and distill the magic of Mackinac.'
--GLEN YOUNG, teacher, poet, editor, and literary columnist for the Petoskey News Review. 

FINALIST, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award
FINALIST, Midwest Independent Publishers' Award

50 Years of Poems from a Marriage

by James P. Lenfestey
Milkweed Editions

Paperback, 104 pages, $16
December, 2017

"James Lenfestey after a lifetime of attentive writing, has lately done poems for family and for marriage that put most of us to shame."
--GARY SNYDER, By the Book, New York Times Book Review, 28 April 2019.

"Rooted in Passion, Desire, Sensuality, and the 'Shared Heat' of Love . . . an Absolute Joy to Read."

"In this age of cynicism, or at the very least irony, it is good to come upon a book that celebrates marriage and family without either sentimentality or ambivalence. 'So much poetry is about storms . . . bruised fruit, locusts eating everything,' Lenfestey writes. 'This poem is about a harvest that satisfies.'"
--LINDA PASTAN, former Poet Laureate of Maryland

"Think of Jim Lenfestey's A Marriage Book as a talking photo album or an unfolding epithalamium. What a fine tribute to fifty years of real world love!"
--Minnesota Poet Laureate JOYCE SUTPHEN

"Warning Label: Prepare to be shaken, moved, amused, terrified, relieved, delighted. Take in small doses or one large gulp; either way you will be healed."

"These tender, sly, plainspoken poems are a profound (and sexy) hymn to a long marriage. James Lenfestey writes of domestic matters, yes, but the poems are most definitely undomesticated. They tell a thousand small secrets in an extended meditation on love and all its consequences. They also chart the history of a complex emotion over many years, which I found fascinating. Tonally nuanced, fresh and far-ranging, the voice in these poems is a delight."

"James P. Lenfestey's poems encircle a marriage while opening it out into the depths and heights with tenderness, I might say reverence, and grace. The poems move from outer rituals into the interior world of the self that wants to make sense of birth, joy, damage, death, and grief, but can't, entirely. You want to know how it is to stay through the long haul? Look to these poems. 'It is gravity, / which limits us totally, / which makes all life possible,' Lenfestey writes. These are the poems of a brave heart and a skilled poet. They will make you want to kiss your sweetheart."
--FLEDA BROWN, former Poet Laureate of Delaware

"These generous poems, attractive in their emotional directness, content in their subject matter, bring us into contact with the intimacies of an intensely lived life, insisting both on their frequent joys--there is playfulness, there is fervor--and on disclosing the vulnerabilities that demanding relationships reveal in us over the decades."


2500 years of poems about bees

Edited by James P. Lenfestey

University of Minnesota Press
Forward by Bill McKibben
Founder:, author of "Oil and Honey"
Afterward by Dr. Marla Spivak
Macarthur-winning entomologist

Hardbound, embossed bee on cover, 225 pages, $24.95.
Please order from bookstores or at online retailers.
Proceeds go to The Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota founded by Dr. Spivak.

"Next I'll speak about the celestial gift of honey from the air."
-Virgil, The Georgics Book IV, Bee-keeping.

It is said there are 20,000 species of bees in the world - a genus fifty million years old - although in the fertile imagination of the world's poets, there is no beginning and no end to bee buzz. Sappho wrote of bees, "neither honey nor bees for me" in the 6th century BCE. As did Virgil, Rumi, Shakespeare, Bobby Burns, Clare, Coleridge, The Earl of Essex, Emerson, Herrick, Issa, Machado, Mandelstam, Neruda, Dickinson prolifically, Whitman, Tennyson, Yeats, Frost, and on into the buzz of the 20th and 21st centuries from Sherman Alexie and Carol Ann Duffy, current Poet Laureate of England, and many more.

The poems in this anthology (ancient Greek, literally a "gathering of flowers") were foraged over the past decade, including these lines from Emily Dickinson: To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee./ One clover, and a bee./ And revery./ The Revery alone will do/ if Bees are few.

Emily's line, "If Bees are few," today contains a terrible poignancy. In the 21st Century, bees are indeed becoming "few"- hives collapsing, wild species disappearing. This anthology is poetry's response to that crisis, dedicated to celebrated entomologist Dr. Marla Spivak and other scientists and beekeepers who are the best hope to maintain populations of gentle honeybees and gorgeous and productive wild bees in our lives. All proceeds support research on bee and ecosystem health at the Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota.


A Pilgrimage To Cold Mountain

by James P. Lenfestey


"Full of vivid characters and poetry and coincidence, delivered against the landscapes of a foreign culture, James Lenfestey's delightful story of pilgrimage to the source of Cold Mountains poetry possesses great bravado, attentiveness and honesty." -TONY HOAGLAND

"Seeking the Cave is part travelogue, part literary history, and part spiritual journey. Lenfestey is a lively and entertaining tour guide. Modest, funny, curious, and wide open to the world, he gives us perceptive glimpses of Chinese culture, ancient to contemporary, and into what it means to be a poet, both now and twelve centuries ago. The account of his quest to find Han-shan's cave is a delight from beginning to end." -CHASE TWICHELL

"James Lenfestey's ranging, big-hearted book of pilgrimage and quest recounts the meeting of two poets, one a twentieth-century American, the other a surprisingly gregarious T'ang Dynasty hermit known for both his poems of deep solitude and the warmth of his friendships. The story of Lenfestey's late-life search for his own self's unfolding portrait is, in happy sympathy, replete with deft portraits of others, from the translator-scholars Burton Watson and Bill Porter to the sincere and enterprising Buddhist nuns opening a new shrine and its accompanying gift shop. Seeking the Cave intertwines landscape and language, poetry and prose, foodstuffs and culture, and above all, the explorations of inner life made outward, step by step, on the steep paths of China's cities and mountains." -JANE HIRSHFIELD

"Is it 'yuan' or coincidence that the mountain both Han-shan and James Lenfestey reached is called Tientai: a heavenly landing, stage, abode, home, reachable only through poetry? Instead of taking over his family business, Lenfestey devoted his energy to poetry and education, and followed the path of the wild, elusive Chinese poet who vanished into Cold Mountain. Han-shan released the vibration that traveled a thousand years, and it sprouted, grew, bloomed, now fruited into poetry through the hands, feet, and mouth of an equally wild American poet, who chased that echo across the Pacific, over the Cold Mountain, into the cave, where time and space are tangled, entangled, collapsed into one-a true co-incidence, correspondence, concurrence. We should all read, or rather, experience Seeking the Cave, a journey wild, magical, quantum-leaping - a pilgrimage we must take if we want to know who we are, why we are here, where our home is." -WANG PING

"Like Parzival on his search for the Holy Grail, Jim Lenfestey is on a quest to find his heart, and, though he didn't realize it when he embarked on his journey, to claim his identity as a man and a poet. Through story and poem, he takes us half way around the world and deep into Cold Mountain cave, the sanctum sanctorum of his beloved (legendary?) hero, Han Shan. "Seeking the cave" is a journey we all must undertake. Lenfestey shows readers the way in. The pace is leisurely, the territory exotic yet somehow familiar, and his story flows swiftly and abundantly, like a spring river." -ERIC UTNE, founder, UTNE READER

A Pilgrimage To Cold Mountain

by James P. Lenfestey

Milkweed Editions, Minnesota, $24
Paper Over Board Hardcover (ISBN 978-1-57131-346-1)
(Publication Date: September 2014 )  

” A lively account of a visit to the cave where Han-shan actually lived. It unites our brief literary life with the ancient richness of Chinese culture. ” - Robert Bly

When award-winning poet and essayist James P. Lenfestey stumbled upon Han-shan's Cold Mountain poems in 1974, he found more than just literature, he found the medicine his spirit desperately needed. So thirty years later, when he decides to depart from his career in advertising and journalism to travel across the world to find the location of the legendary Cold Mountain cave, he embarks upon an inner journey as well.

Exploring the history of Chinese poetry and religion as he goes - from the enormous chanting hall of ten thousand Buddhas in Bailin Temple to the birthplace of Confucius - Lenfestey's road-trip across China is a pilgrimage through language and landscape. His journey reveals his desire for calm reflection along with his unbridled curiosity and passion for knowledge. In the end he discovers not only the cave he seeks, but also the transformative power of poetry, the best tool we have for expressing the ”incomprehensible joy” of our brief and precious lives.

Interspersed with poems by the author and Han-shan, Seeking the Cave is a journey suffused with humor and deep honesty that will appeal to lovers of poetry and travel writing alike.

” A profound, and profoundly personal book. It's very captivating, warm and friendly, personal, unguarded, idiosyncratic, pointed but also finally apolitical, and eminently charming. ” - Gary Snyder

Born and Raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin: A Football Autobiography

Limited Edition by James P. Lenfestey

Blinc Publishing
Size: 8 3/4" x 14 1/2"
(Publication Date: July 4, 2013 )  

Limited edition broadside printed by Bill Moran of Blinc Publishing in an edition of one hundred copies on July 4, 2013. Signed and numbered. $25 plus $5 shipping.


Red Dragonfly Press (
Softcover (ISBN 978-1-937693-25-1), 45 pages, $12
(Available Earth Day, April 22, 2013) 

Jim Lenfestey helps us see the 'hot and hellish horizon' not of the future, bur of the 'dark ages we call now,' And though the title claims it, these poems are not only in anger, but in 'evidence and heat and love' and the only thing that can save us: The will to fight.
— award-winning poet Heidi E. Erdrich.

Jim Lenfestey's Earth in Anger insists on love of Earth as the crucial tension within his beautiful anger. May it enable resurgence.
— McKnight Award-winning poet John Caddy
A poetic wake-up call. Going beyond mere description of our common predicament, Lenfestey not only describes but calls to action. This is a book meant to incite.
— Poet Thomas R. Smith.

A great job representing the urgency of the global situation with poems that are passionate, musical and utterly convincing. Bravo. The book is a beauty, too.
— Poet and professor emeritus Michael Dennis Browne.

A beautiful and troubling book.
— Susan Marie Swanson, poet and author of The House in the Night.

After nearly 25 years covering climate science as a journalist while developing his reputation as poet and witnessing a “Goebbels-like propaganda machine… depress public understanding into apathy over the findings and alarms of climate science,” Lenfestey found himself writing private poems as well as public journalism in response to the tragedy of our home planet under siege.

Inspired by Robert Bly's collection The Insanity of Empire: Poems against the Iraq War, and Pablo Neruda’s Twenty poems of Love and a Song of Despair, Lenfestey and editor Scott King assembled twenty-five poems written over the past several years, artfully arranged with a Robert Frost-like “Invocation” and a quiet coda.

The poems reflect the broadest public concerns, yet remain sharply personal and lyrical, even musical. Some sing the glory of our planet's natural systems and the “near-mythological” challenges they face, while others hymn natural places and sounds that bring the reader solace. The exception is the penultimate poem, “By Azure Huron’s Shore,” a long imaginative leap into the voice of Walt Whitman, as if Whitman had written about healing the global climate crisis instead of healing the nation after the Civil War. Like the startling title, from Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Tauris,” Earth in Anger acts on the reader like “phantoms haunting mortals’ sleep,/ revealing how things really stand, and what events are destined.”

$12.00 order form


Edited by Thomas R. Smith with James P. Lenfestey
University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN
Hardcover, 306 pages, $34.95
To celebrate acquisition of Robert Bly's archives in his 83rd year, the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota sponsored a major conference, "Robert Bly in This World," organized by James P. Lenfestey. This volume, with a preface by Lenfestey, is the record of that historic event. Scholars and authors from America and England presented papers on Bly’s poetry, translations, criticism, mythopoetic storytelling, and other major achievements, including his annual Great Mother and Minnesota Men’s conferences. A trip to Madison, Minnesota, where Bly’s writing studio has been restored and preserved on the Lac Qui Parle County fairgrounds, is also chronicled here, plus intimate appreciations by Bly’s friends and admirers Coleman Barks, Donald Hall, Jane Hirshfield, Lewis Hyde, and others. A vintage documentary on Bly, A Man Writes to a Part of Himself, screened at the conference, is included as a DVD in a supplement to the book. 

$35.00 order form


Edited by James P. Lenfestey
Red Dragonfly Press
, Red Wing, MN © 2010
Hardcover, 232 pages, $20

A corpulent, beautifully designed hardcover anthology of 133 poems (and one recipe) by 103 poets (and one architect), edited with an introduction by James P. Lenfestey.  The anthology is dedicated to poet and essayist Bill Holm, whose idea it was before he died unexpectedly in 2009.   Eric Utne, founder of the Utne Reader, says this anthology finally “proves that pigs do fly.”  Editor Lenfestey declares, “These are poems you can EAT!”
Lenfestey has done a yeoman’s job gathering up poems from around the world and throughout literary time, including poems by a Nobel Prize winner (Pablo Neruda, in a new translation), two US Poet Laureates (Donald Hall, Ted Kooser), five state poet laureates (Robert Bly, Jane Gentry, William Kloefcorn, David Lee, Linda Pastan) and one Provincial treasure (John B. Lee).  Plus nearly 100 others, some published here for the first time, others multiple blue ribbon winners.   All the poets seem to find in our close porcine cousins something both delicious and dangerous, “so right its wrong,” as one poet says of his gourmand love.

In an introductory essay, Lenfestey roots through the history of pig poetry since Homer and Han-shan, uncovering many tasty surprises.  His aside on “proper pig diction” is a linguistic revelation, his call for “proper pig relations” a humane grunt.
Readers will finish this literary feast not only ordering “pasture-raised” pork for their dinner tables, but demanding a slice of LOWDOWN AND COMING ON for everyday breakfasts and bedtime snacks.
International and national poets include: 
Margaret Atwood, Coleman Barks, Wendell Berry, William Blake, Carol Bly, Robert Bly, Billy Collins, Louise Erdrich, Martin Espada, Han-shan, Robert Hedin, Bill Holm, Ted Hughes, Rodney Jones, Galway Kinnell, Ted Kooser, David Lee, John B. Lee, Denise Levertov, Philip Levine, Pablo Neruda, Greg Pape, Linda Pastan, Sylvia Plath, Pattianne Rogers, Robert Service, Anne Sexton, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jason Shinder, Patricia Smith, Gary Snyder, Su Dong Po, Kevin Young, many more.
Upper Midwest poets include: Todd Boss, Michael Dennis Browne, Sharon Chmielarz, Heid Erdrich, Margaret Hasse, Jim Heynen, Louis Jenkins, Kate Kysar, Julie Landsman, James Lenfestey, Jim Moore, Margaret Noori, Joe Paddock, Jeff Poniewaz, John Rezmerski, Edith Rylander, George Roberts, Thomas R. Smith, Joyce Sutphen, Jay White, Morgan Grace Willow, many more.

$20.00 order form

"The best Poetry Books of 2010!" - McCawber's Books.

A CARTLOAD OF SCROLLS: 100 Poems in the Manner of the T'ang Dynasty Hermit Poet Han-Shan

Holy Cow! Press, Duluth, MN © 2007 

In 1974, author James P. Lenfestey came upon the book, Cold Mountain: 100 Poems of the T'ang Dynasty Poet Han-Shan, translated by Burton Watson, and it cured his warts. It also turned out to be the voice he had “missed” all his life. For the first and only time in his writing life, he began to “write back” to another author. The result thirty-three years later is this collection of one hundred poems, inspired by the form and sensibility of that 1200-year-old Chinese hermit, yet brimming with Lenfestey's own humor, wisdom, insight and delight in language. Titles such as “Han-Shan is the Cure for Warts,” “Thinking of Sex Like the Chinese,” and “Oracle Bones” provides a glimpse into Lenfestey's poetic landscape. This book is dedicated to poetic translator Burton Watson, 81, whom Lenfestey visited in Tokyo on a pilgrimage to China to pay homage to Han-Shan at his hermit cave.

$15.95 order form


"These aren't translations of Han-shan's poems; they're transmissions of his spirit!" --ERIC UTNE, founder, UTNE READER.

"How delightful to see Han-shan, my thousand-year-old master from the Cold Mountains, come alive in the streets of the Twin Cities, the water of the North Shore and the winding Mississippi in Lenfestey's 100 gems! Each poem is a river, a mountain with secret paths for the faithful. James Lenfestey knows the true sound of Han-shan: without poetry, what is life?" --WANG PING, author of THE MAGIC WHIP, OF FLESH AND THE SPIRIT, editor and co-translator of NEW GENERATION: POETRY FROM CHINA TODAY.

"These poems live in a cave.  They come out at night and howl at the moon and go back inside when the work whistle sounds."  --BILL PORTER, AKA Red Pine, translator of THE COLLECTED SONGS OF COLD MOUNTAIN, author of ROAD TO HEAVEN: ENCOUNTERS WITH CHINESE HERMITS.

"I love this book! 'A Cartload of Scrolls' embodies the very essence of poetry, its quickness and lyric intensity. In these 100 poems, most of them eight lines, Jim Lenfestey does far more than simply channel Han-shan. He builds on and transforms the spirit of Han-shan's work into something absolutely American. These poems are such a pleasure to read: intimate, immediate, full of joy, sorrow, graced by surprise and humor. I can't imagine coming away from this book and not feeling grateful that it is there to be returned to again and again."  --JIM MOORE, author of six collections of poetry, including LIGHTNING AT DINNER.

STARTRIBUNE Review, Nov. 1, 2007, by Carol Connolly
These short, elegant poems, written in the manner of Han-Shan, are clear as a crystal bell. They ring with gratitude and take care of things -- unload the dishwasher at dawn, love wife, children and grandchildren. They also cherish the syllables that "buzz around my ears like flies/ I reach out with my pen and snatch them" -- even as dad phones in to remind him of his "potential with The Company." Lenfestey loses his calendar and feels his "... insides rearranged./ When my mourning ends for what I might have been/ I will be someone else. My wings will shine." And in this book, they do indeed shine.

CITY PAGES “A-List” review,
Humorous and concise in its observations, Lenfestey's poetry is accessible even to the biggest poetry haters, without losing any intensity of language. He describes grandparents anticipating the arrival of visiting grandchildren as "steadying the web of the world, feeling again its tremble." The content is fresh and contemporary, in spite of being modeled after a long dead scribe.


Red Dragonfly Press, Red Wing, MN © 2008

In the fall of 2005, I participated in a one month residency at The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts in Red Wing, Minnesota.  While there I planned to develop a manuscript of Chinese style poems modeled after the work of a poet I have long admired, Han-shan, a hermit who lived out the end his life in a cave on Cold Mountain in China about 1200 years ago.  The residency in our quiet, single rooms required that we perform community service in Goodhue County where the Anderson Center is located.  A card on the desk in my monkish cell indicated that my service destination was another set of monkish cells, the Goodhue County Jail.

I visited the jail for two sessions to teach poetry and writing as a practice toward self-understanding.  The poems included here, with one or two exceptions, were written that October -- in anticipation of, during, and after those encounters.  This collection of poems is a way to visit any prison, its walls within or without.
sample poems

Publication date; fall, 2007


Nonan Press, Minneapolis, MN © 2000 

Selections from 15 years of columns for the Hill and Lake Press, many of which won Community and Neighborhood Press Awards.  Ranging from the hilarious to the heartbreaking, as the author copes with children, neighbors human and other, and the urge for peace and quiet.
read the reviews

$16.00 order form


Red Dragonfly Press, limited letterpress edition,
$90 for special lettered edition of 27 copies on kittikata paper bound in traditional-Japanese style with wrap-around case, and 200 copies on Mohawk papers with Khadi handmade wraps, all with a wood-engraving of Han-shan by Colorado artist Daniel Garner. 

A suite of 21 handset poems in the manner of the author's literary mentor, the T'ang Dynasty Zen poet Han-shan, who reputedly inscribed his poets on rocks and trees and the walls of the nearby temple, where he sometimes worked as what Sam Hamill calls a "kitchen helper."  Several of these poems were previously published in URTHONA, a magazine of Buddhism and Literature in the UK.  LIMITED EDITION.


TreeHouse Press, Ojai, CA, © 2006
paper wrapers, 67 pages, book design by Tree Bernstein
Cover photograph by Hope Frazier
ISBN 0-9651878-3-7  
order form

A collection of poems in four sections: "Your Tree, Your Bird;" "Ojai Longing," "Coyote Chorus," and "Rain."  Poet Suzanne Lummis, founder of the LA Poetry Festival, called this book "love poems to the natural world."  Poet Thomas R. Smith says, "This is a book with fur, claws, teeth, tail and paws.   More importantly, it’s a book large with appetite for life and the heart to live it fully."  Poet and translator Robert Hedin calls it "an absolute joy."
read the reviews | sample poems


Red Dragonfly Press, Red Wing, MN
Fine press edition limited to 225 copies,
with wood engraving by Daniel Garner. 

A limited edition chapbook on Fox River vellum with wood engraving of a jumping spider by Colorado Artist Daniel Garner-8 poems about this unusual, but sensible, affection as Lenfestey learns useful lessons from the spider world.  LIMITED EDITION. SOLD OUT.
see sample poems


Marsh River Editions, © 2004
cover color "pleine aire" pastel by Perry Ingli
order form

Popular collection of poems about death and resurrection -- of parents, art, marriage, the body, the land.  Third printing.  Cover art by pleine-aire pastelist Perry Ingli.
Third Printing
read the reviews | sample poems


Coloring book with short poems in it,with drawings by Peter Kramer, Neo-Functionalist Press, Minneapolis, ©2004
dedicated, as it is, "to all the women we have loved, and the precious few who noticed."
order form | sample poems

All these works can be ordered by mail ..please print order form and note quantity.


James P. Lenfestey — Publications & Writings