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A Marriage Book: Poems
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About the Author

James P. Lenfestey is a former college English instructor, alternative school administrator, marketing communications consultant, and editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he won several Page One awards for excellence. Since 2000, he has published a collection of essays, a poetry anthology, five collections of his own poems, several poetry chapbooks, and co-edited Robert Bly in This World. As a journalist he covers education, energy policy, and climate science. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife of forty-seven years. They have four children and seven grandchildren.

Reviews

Praise for A Marriage Book

"James Lenfestey, after a lifetime of attentive writing, has lately done poems for family and marriage that put most of us to shame." --Gary Snyder, New York Times Book Review "These tender, sly, plainspoken poems are a profound (and sexy) hymn to a long marriage. James P. 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."--Chase Twichell "I've been an avid reader of James P. Lenfestey's work for many years. His Seeking the Cave was a wonder, and so is his Marriage Book, a collection rooted in passion, desire, sensuality, and the 'shared heat' of love. This is, above all, a book of transcendence, of celebration. Containing a wealth of extraordinary poems, it appears to have been conceived in a beautiful sustained burst of illumination, with Lenfestey overlapping his themes to create a collection so seamless it could well be read as one long poem. This is a truly superb book, an absolute joy to read."--Robert Hedin "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 poems are alive with many things: stories, images, metaphors, but more than anything else they are alive with rhythm. These are poems of mutual passion, but also of heartbreak and solitude. In the final stanza of 'My Wife Sleeping as I Drive, ' James P. Lenfestey writes: 'We plunge along our course of earth, / each alert in our own way, / ahead the blue black sky full / of oncoming lights and stars. How amazing that we have been invited along for the ride!'"--Jim Moore "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, ' James P. Lenfestey writes. 'This poem is about a harvest that satisfies.'"--Linda Pastan "Think of James P. Lenfestey's A Marriage Book as a talking photo album or an unfolding epithalamium. The lovers meet and marry; the children arrive and grow up. Along the way, there are days of joy and anxious nights, sweetness and humor. The narrator is a courageous 'captain, ' an 'old shepherd / exhausted with tending, ' and a 'Marco Polo, ' but like his predecessors, he always returns to his center, his wife, who is (as he says) his life. What a fine tribute to fifty years of real-world love!"--Joyce Sutphen "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 "I just finished reading A Marriage Book straight through. Such a treasure. Virtuosic, with all the different moods and colors and shadings and statements and counter-statements and . . ., so beautiful. A very wonderful book."--Elizabeth Gordon McKim "These generous poems, attractive in their emotional directness, confident 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."--Michael Dennis Browne Praise for Seeking the Cave "A lively account of James P. Lenfestey's trip to China, which includes a visit to the cave where Han-shan actually lived, a number of Chinese poems written 1,200 years ago, and poems of his own written on the trail to Cold Mountain. It unites our brief literary life with the ancient richness of Chinese culture."--Robert Bly "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 "James P. 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 "Seeking the Cave is part travelogue, part literary history, and part spiritual journey. James P. 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 "'Ah, this is yuan?' Destiny. No Chinese would say: this is a mere coincidence, a chance encounter, that this American man received Han Shan's poems in Greenfield, Massachusetts, in 1974, and his life was no longer the same. From the Cold Mountain, Han Shan released the vibration that traveled a thousand and three hundred years to reach Greenfield, and it sprouted, grew, bloomed, now fruited into poetry through the hands, feet, and mouth of an equally wild American poet, James P. Lenfestey, who chased that echo across the Pacific, over the Cold Mountain, into the cave. Is it yuan or coincidence that the mountain both Han Shan and Lenfestey reached is called Tiantai: a heavenly landing, stage, abode, home, reachable only through poetry? We should all read, or rather, experience Lenfestey's 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

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