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.

9 thoughts on “Arise and Go to Innisfree Poetry Bookstore

  1. Good to know that poetry still thrives. When I was in high school, I chanced upon a poem in the New Yorker by James Dickey called “Falling,” about a flight attendant (then called stewardess) who had fallen out of an airplane (based on a true story). The poem was his imaginative recreation of her falling and what she saw. I had no idea that people thought or wrote like that, and it opened my mind to all the possibilities in life.

    • I wrote fun rhyming poems a lot as a child, and I loved memorizing Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.” But I didn’t really appreciate poetry until college.

      I had a literature professor who made us recite poems, which to us college students seemed juvenile. She warned us that someday we could be sitting in a prison cell or detention center or bomb shelter, and our only comfort would be the poems we could remember. (I think her son was a POW in Vietnam.) Anyway, that warning has stuck with me. Fortunately, I’ve never been imprisoned, but I still delight in thinking about the woods…lovely, dark, and deep.

  2. And yesterday Nicaragua’s internationally known poet, the revered Ernesto Cardenal was in Boulder for a conference and read at length at Innisfree with a translator from his impressive new book The Origin of Species and Other Poems! What a gift that store is to our community!

  3. I hated poetry as a kid, mostly because the only poetry available in my area was the sappy greeting card kind. In classes we were taught only rhyming poetry because kids were supposed to love rhymes. (Apparently not all kids do.) I had to grow up before I could find–and appreciate–the lines of poetry that have stayed with me now for decades: “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you” (Yeats) or “the river / that is without the least dapple or shadow” (Oliver) or “I fell / because of wisdom / but was not destroyed” (Makeda, Queen of Sheba) or “Die / into what the earth requires of you” (Berry) or ““Out of my flesh that hungers / and my mouth that knows / comes the shape I am seeking / for reason” (Lorde). Did they change my life? Yes–by becoming companions, walking with me year by year.

  4. Congratulation to Innisfree on opening a poetry bookstore in Boulder. Also note that there is a poetry bookstore in the Midwest, as well! Woodland Pattern Book Center (woodlandpattern.org) in Milwaukee has specialized in small press poetry books for more than 30 years. They also host dozens of poetry readings and workshops every year.

  5. I think it is amazing that there are only three poetry-only bookstores in the US. Its just wonderful that a start up business like this can flourish in an environment that focuses on learning and creativity like Boulder. I can’t wait to go to one of those featured poetry readings. That sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing this with me.

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