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.
If you’re reading this review and thinking you’d like to have A Cartload of Scrolls, either for a gift or for what ails you, I’ve got an extra copy to give away. Just leave a comment telling me what intrigues you about the book, and a winner will be chosen at random on 12noon EST Wednesday, March 12, 2008. For even more ways to win and for contest rules, click here.
Published by Holy Cow! Press.