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A Cartload of Scrolls: 100 Poems in the…

A Cartload of Scrolls: 100 Poems in the Manner of T'ang Dynasty Poet…

by James P. Lenfestey

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A Cartload of Scrolls by James P. Lenfestey is not your average book of poetry. Whether you consider yourself an avid or reluctant reader of poetry, you’ll find great joy in discovering Lenfestey’s eight-line verses crafted after the style of ancient Chinese poet Han-Shan. How do I know this book will please even the reluctants? My sixth grade teacher, that’s how I know.
Before the sixth grade, I loved poems, albeit the ones written for children. I loved the rhythms, the word choices, the stories they told. But Mrs. Script changed all of that with a torturous school year of poetry memorization and recitation, sometimes in front of the class, other times in front of the entire school. Not enjoyable for one self-conscious little girl who sat in the back of the class. I thus became a “reluctant” when it came to poetry.
And so my thanks goes out to James P. Lenfestey, who has put me to poetry rights once again. I was immediately drawn to his collection of 100 poems and knew I had to review it. Maybe it was the premise of the book - Lenfestey’s love for Han-Shan’s 1,200-year-old work, driving him to write over 30 years’ of poems in response. Or maybe it’s the everyday, relatable, and often humorous tone of these short gems, but I relished each one. With titles like “Yelling at Birds” and “To the Gnat Drowned in my Wine at Lunch,” how can I not help picking the book back up just to reread a favorite? Yes, this is friendly, accessible poetry that manages to convey everything from humor to beauty in just a few lines. This is poetry for everyone.
(Originally reviewed on carpelibrisreviews.com.)
  carpelibrisreviews | Mar 13, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0977945855, Paperback)

“These aren't translations of Han-Shan's poems; they're transmissions of his spirit!”—Eric Utne, founder of Utne Reader

“I love this book!”—Jim Moore

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, Lenfestey 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 1,200-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” provide a glimpse into Lenfestey's poetic landscape. This book is dedicated to poetic translator Burton Watson, eighty-one, whom Lenfestey visited in Tokyo on a pilgrimage to China to pay homage to Han-Shan at his hermit cave.

James P. Lenfestey has worked as a college literature instructor, alternative school administrator, salesman, marketing communications professional, and editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he won several Page One Awards. He has published three previous collections of poetry and a collection of personal essays, The Urban Coyote: Howlings on Family, Community and the Search for Peace and Quiet (Nodin Press). He coordinates poetry festivals and a reading series in California, Michigan, and Minneapolis, where he and his wife currently reside.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:03 -0400)

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