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

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