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Book Report: Porcine prose, inventive money making in this week's spotlight

My father wasn't much for poetry. He was more of a Zane Grey man.

But he truly enjoyed Chaucer's "Miller's Tale," when I typed out a copy for him, when he wrote and wondered how I was wasting my time in graduate school.

And I know he'd like a new book just out, "Low Down and Coming On" (Red Dragonfly Press, $20 cloth), edited by Minneapolis poet and journalist James Lenfestey.

It's a beautifully printed hardcover, uncommon for poetry and, according to the dust jacket, it's "A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems About Pigs."

My father always said pigs were smart and that pigs weren't dirty. It was man's fault they looked dirty because of where man kept them.

So I know he'd like Minneapolis poet George Roberts' poem, "Pig:"

"At one time the pig was sacred.

Then he wallowed while Rome burned,

sent troops willy-nilly into terrorist strongholds.

"Now, he relies on a pinched vocabulary, grunts

uncomprehending at the rattling teleprompter,

keeps his toilet far from where he eats or lives.

"Can learn tricks faster than a dog,

never had no sweat glands, and watches without

comment the sow gobbling up her young."

Lenfestey includes lots of Midwestern poets, like Louise and Heid Erdrich and John Calvin Resmerski. It's no surprise that they know about pigs, but other poets included come as something of a surprise, like Percy Bysshe Shelley, Margaret Atwood, Denise Levertov and Sylvia Plath.

Lenfestey himself is no slouch when it comes to things porcine. Here is his poem, "What the Smell of Frying Bacon Means to Him:"

"My God, son, have you ever seen

a cyst-ridden rutting boar

dragging his toenails over the concrete


his (testicles) swaying like stone


his reluctant snout full

of the insistent scent

of another of his

filthy sows

sloshing into heat?

"To him, the smell of frying bacon

means a rest,

a day off,

a few snorts with the boys."

If this book doesn't receive a nod from the folks who run the Minnesota Book Award program, I'll never pay attention to the event again.


We proceed now from matters porcine to other concerns of the flesh. Lynn Schnurnberger has made a name for herself writing about "M & Ms," well-off New York women who concern themselves with mothering and maintenance and not much else. But they have problems of their own.

In "The Best Laid Plans" (Ballantine Books, $25), heroine Tru Newman has plenty of problems. Her mother was a beauty queen and afforded her a miserable childhood. So Tru is happy to mother her investment banker husband and maintain her teenage twin daughters.

Then all hell breaks loose. Turns out her husband has lost his good job and they've been living on credit cards for months.

Tru has to go to work. She's gutsy if nothing else, so she starts a "dating" service made up of society friends who are in their 40s. Their "maturity" appeals to men and Tru and her partner are rolling in dough until the district attorney gets on their case.

Couple that with the twin girls fighting over the same boyfriend (he uses Clearasil), and her husband's new job, situating him next to their flirtatious neighbor and you've got trouble -- trouble in Gotham City.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.