In this transformative book, award-winning poet and essayist James Lenfestey makes an epic journey across the world to find the Cold Mountain Cave, a location long believed to exist only in myths and the ancient home of his idol, Han Shan, author of the Cold Mountain poems. Lenfestey's voyage takes him from the Midwestern United States to Tokyo to a road trip across the expanse of China with frequent excursions to the country's rich historical and cultural landmarks. As he makes his way to the cave, Lenfestey learns more than history or geography;he discovers his identity as a writer and a poet. Interspersed with poems by both the author and Han Shan, Seeking the Cave will appeal to lovers of poetry and travel narrative alike.
Praise for "Seeking the Cave"
"A lively account of 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
"Jim 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 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 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 James Lenfestey reached is called Tiantai: a heavenly landing, stage, abode, home, reachable only through poetry? We should all read, or rather, experience James 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
Author Bio: Lenfestey, James P
After a career in academia, advertising and journalism as an editorial writer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he won several Page One awards for excellence, James P. Lenfestey has published poetry, reviews and articles, plus a book of essays. Lenfestey is co-founder of the Ojai Poetry Festival in Ojai, CA. He also chairs the Literary Witnesses poetry program in Minneapolis. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, the political writer Susan Lenfestey. They have four children and four grandchildren.