A Marriage Book
Finalist for the Midwest Book Award
From James P. Lenfestey, a collection of poems that lends delicacy and gentle humor to durable, long-lasting love.
Writing love poems fifty years into a marriage is no easy task: “If he exaggerates his love, she’ll know . . . And if his desire for her is undiminished, / who would believe?” But in A Marriage Book, Lenfestey meets his own challenge with aplomb. These poems drop readers into the rich, textured world of one couple’s enduring intimacy, from the warmth of a bedroom occupied by two to squabbles over miscommunications and crumbs in the kitchen.
As the marriage (and the Book) transition into parenthood, Lenfestey illuminates the equally stalwart wonder of observing one’s children as they age and develop. Paternal love persists—and is even fed by—watching his children argue, suffer their own mistakes, and roar horrible breath at breakfast. “So much poetry is about storms, / bruised fruit, locusts eating everything,” he writes. “This poem is about a harvest that satisfies.”
A Marriage Book is a collection that essences the magic from the household quotidian, creating a technicolor portrait of a vibrant and dynamic family.
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Praise and Prizes
"James Lenfestey, after a lifetime of attentive writing, has lately done poems for family and marriage that put most of us to shame."
“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!’”
“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, 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.”
“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.”