Arise and Go to Innisfree Poetry Bookstore

April is National Poetry Month, and with spring weather, creativity blooms. Boulder, Colo., my home town, is the fortunate home of Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café, located on The Hill near the CU-Boulder campus.

A reader at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore in Boulder, Colo.

Innisfree is the third poetry-only shop in the entire nation (the first two are Grolier’s in Cambridge, Mass., and Seattle’s Open Books). Innisfree just opened in January 2011, and this weekend it’s celebrating a second grand opening in honor of the poetic spirit that abides in all of us.

Named for the popular W.B. Yeats poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” the bookstore/café is a community meeting place for writers and lovers of poetry. Like its namesake poem, the shop is also a place of respite and contemplation (In Yeats’ words about the Irish lake isle: “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow”).

And indeed, a sense of peace and deep cultural richness envelops me when I walk into Innisfree. There’s a waft of espresso mixed with book-bound paper—a scent that has delighted me since I learned to read. Amid the rows of sleek wooden bookshelves that bulge with enticing volumes, I feel alive with the possibility of words.

I say hello to the works of dear friends: poets Mary Oliver, Rumi, Maya Angelou, Rilke, Neruda, Auden, T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath—and my own former teachers Tess Gallagher and Hayden Carruth. There’s a wonderful shelf filled with Colorado poets, including Boulder writers Marilyn Krysl, Anne Waldman and Jack Collom, and Colorado poet laureate David Mason.

Yeats and Kerouac are just two of the poets on the Innisfree shelves.

The shelves also teem with words translated into English from other languages; Japanese, African, Chinese, French, German, Indian and Arabic poets all reside here. And young readers will revel in the kid’s section with verse penned by the likes of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

The Love of Language

Why would co-owners Brian Buckley and Kate Hunter, a married couple who have small children, open an all-poetry book shop in an era when brick-and-mortar stores are becoming relics? I can tell you: for the love of language and its power to transport us into the realm of the soul.

If you’re in Colorado, add Innisfree Poetry Bookstore to your itinerary. Sip on fair-trade, organic coffee or tea; nibble on local, organic baked goods while you browse. And by all means, buy a volume or two—and make it your practice to read a poem a day, on the road or at home.

Co-owner Brian Buckley reads poetry at Innisfree's January Grand Opening.

And join the Innisfree community: Tuesdays are Open Mic Nights, so bring your own scribblings. On Thursday nights you can catch a poetry reading by local and visiting poets.

At Boulder’s  Innisfree, there’s a whole world of wise words to be discovered.

Laurel Kallenbach, poet, freelance writer and editor

Tell us about your favorite poem and how it changed your life. Just click on “Comments” below.

Sick with a Suitcase

I spent last weekend nursing a painful sinus infection, and somehow the entire weekend slipped by without my achieving any of the things on my to-do list.

The good news, however, is that while I snorted through a box of tissues, I made excellent headway on a wonderful novel.

Sadly, it often takes illness or an accident to get me to slow down enough to read a good book—or just do nothing. And it’s gotten me thinking about times I’ve been under the weather while traveling.

Being ill away from home can be, at the least, scary and a huge inconvenience. At worst, it could be life-threatening. (An acquaintance was on a dream trip to Florence when her appendix burst. Fortunately, she’s fluent in Italian and received excellent medical care, even if the hospital environment left much to be desired.)

Tikal's temples by moonlight were so breathtaking that I momentarily forgot I was sick.

Tikal’s temples by moonlight were so breathtaking that I momentarily forgot that I was sick.

Most of the time being sick sucks. My trip to the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala was marred by a fever and digestive disorders. On my first day, I managed to hike through the ancient temples and witnessed a spectacular sunset over the jungle. After I staggered back to the hotel, I was down for the count.

All night I alternated between sweating in the heat and shivering with fever, but I kept telling myself I’d be ready for more archaeological explorations in the morning. It’s a measure of how lousy I felt that I couldn’t muster even an eyelash of energy to see some of the world’s most spectacular pyramids on my second day. Heartbreaking.

Another time, on a trip to Germany, I spent half the night steaming in the shower because my sinuses were so clogged from a raging head cold worsened by the dry air on the plane.

And there was that time I slipped and broke my ankle at the most gorgeous resort on Vancouver Island, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. I dismissed it as a badly sprained ankle and managed to hobble around for the rest of the trip…but it wasn’t as fun.

Silver Lining?

Sometimes, though, there can be a wee silver lining to having a sniffle or a rash: enforced Slow Travel. I remember an absolutely divine (and rainy) day nestled under the featherbed in the Swiss-Alp village of Mürren. This charming town offers some of the most drop-dead-gorgeous mountain scenery on the planet, but I was nursing cramps and jet lag.

I broke my ankle while staying on Bedwell Sound in British Columbia. As you can see, staying in bed in this luxury tent wasn't exactly horrible! Photo courtesy Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.

My low mood and depleted energy level, plus the rain, were the perfect excuse not to go hiking, not to take photos, not to seek out restaurants. Instead, I washed out some dirty socks and underwear, hung them on the radiator to dry, and stayed in bed with a paperback and Toblerone bar. And when the clouds finally parted over the Eiger mountain, I was content to admire it through my lace-curtained window.

Looking back, I was glad for the day of rest and recuperation.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and travel survivor

P.S. What sickness sagas can you share?