Back in 1976, Jim Lenfestey and his wife, Susan, were part of the founding of a community newspaper, the Hill and Lake Press. Jim later took up the task of writing a monthly column, and kept at it for thirteen years. A selection of those columns was published in 2000 as The Urban Coyote: Howlings on Family, Community and the Search for Peace and Quiet. A decade later, Jim returned to the columnists desk at Hill and Lake, producing a delightful new series of stories and observations as the world rambled by. The best of these occasional pieces have once again been collected and published by Nodin Press. Catholic and curious, local and grandiose, personal and communal, they range in subject from professional sports to tree identification, from holiday celebrations to environmental activism, from cemetery wanderings to spindal painting, all of it liberally spiced with extravagant rhetorical flourishes and sincere joie de vivre.
But in the midst of all the fun and games, Lenfestey succeeds in raising plenty of meaty issues. Patricia Hampl praises the collection's "super-local, even civic, commitment," while Eric Utne describes it as a "field guide for living and creating vital communities."
James P. Lenfestey helped found the Hill and Lake Press, a community newspaper, in which most of these columns first appeared. After a career in academia, marketing communications, and journalism, on the editorial board of the StarTribune, where he won several Page One awards for excellence, since 2000 Lenfestey has published a previous collection of Urban Coyote essays, seven collections of poems, edited three poetry anthologies, and co-edited Robert Bly in This World (University of Minnesota Press). His haibun memoir, Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain, was a finalist for the 2014 Minnesota Book Award. His sixth poetry collection, A Marriage Book: 50 Years of Poems from a Marriage, was a finalist for two 2017 Midwest book awards. In 2020 he received the Kay Sexton Award for significant contributions to the Minnesota literary community. For fifteen years he chaired the Literary Witnesses poetry program in Minneapolis and led a summer poetry series on Mackinac Island, Michigan. He lives in Minneapolis' Lowry Hill neighborhood with his wife, the political activist Susan Lenfestey. They have four children and eight grandchildren.
"It's a wonderful book, and it does something most column 'collections' don't manage—achieves its own narrative trajectory. I read with eagerness to see what would happen next. It's partly the wise choice of the seasons, four 'movements' like Vivaldi. Also the super-local, even civic, commitment, moving deftly into the national and global. Finally it's the voice, so winning! Laced with a glinting thread of humor, this is a chronicle for our times." - Patricia Hampl
"These essays by James P. Lenfestey record 'the full catastrophe of life' (as Zorba put it) heartily embraced, family and nature deeply savored, social conscience thoroughly engaged. This essay collection adds up to a field guide for living and creating vital communities. Their generosity makes the rest of us grateful." - Eric Utne
"Boy, did I enjoy this book! I laughed out loud. I wondered. I shook my head in admiration. I vowed to change some things. There may be readers who could treat themselves to just one of these essays a day, but I couldn't keep from reading one after another. Seasons of the Urban Coyote answers the call in Wendell Berry's counsel: Be joyful / though you have considered all the facts." - Bart Sutter