Books by Lenfestey | Order Form
Forthcoming, FALL, 2024:
by James P. Lenfestey
Selected and Edited by James P. Lenfestey
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
"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."
Edited by Robert Hedin and James P. Lenfestey
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.
by James P. Lenfestey
"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."
by James P. Lenfestey
"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."
"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.'"
"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 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.'
FINALIST, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award
by James P. Lenfestey
"James Lenfestey after a lifetime of attentive writing, has lately done poems for family and for marriage that put most of us to shame."
"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.'"
"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!"
"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."
"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."
Edited by James P. Lenfestey
"Next I'll speak about the celestial gift of honey from the air."
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.
NOW IN BEAUTIFUL PAPERBACK!
by James P. Lenfestey
"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
SEEKING THE CAVE
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
Limited Edition by James P. Lenfestey
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.
EARTH IN ANGER: TWENTY-FIVE POEMS OF LOVE AND DESPAIR FOR PLANET EARTH
Red Dragonfly Press (www.reddragonflypress.org)
Jim Lenfestey's Earth in Anger insists on love of Earth as the crucial tension within his beautiful anger. May it enable resurgence.
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.
ROBERT BLY IN THIS WORLD
Edited by Thomas R. Smith with James P. Lenfestey
Edited by James P. Lenfestey
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!”
"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
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.
Praise for A CARTLOAD OF SCROLLS:
INTO THE GOODHUE COUNTY JAIL: POEMS TO FREE PRISONERS.
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.
THE URBAN COYOTE: HOWLINGS ON FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND THE SEARCH FOR PEACE AND QUIET.
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.
$16.00 order form
Red Dragonfly Press, limited letterpress edition,
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.
THE TOOTHED AND CLEVER WORLD
TreeHouse Press, Ojai, CA, © 2006
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."
AFFECTION FOR SPIDERS
Red Dragonfly Press, Red Wing, MN
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.
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.
Coloring book with short poems in it,with drawings by Peter Kramer, Neo-Functionalist Press, Minneapolis, ©2004
All these works can be ordered by mail ..please print order form and note quantity.