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"Innisfree Poetry Bookstore: Boulder's new poetry-only bookstore is country's third"

Mathew Klickstein | Daily Camera | January 9, 2011

Quaint and homey, Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe sits atop the crest of University Hill across the Sink and Buchanan's Coffee Pub. Center stage of Innisfree's cozy interior is a wooden table that acts as a potential community nexus, surrounded by walls of poetry books, from foreign to children's, with everything in between.

Brian Buckley has just opened up the new store with his wife and co-proprietor Kate Hunter. He claims his new bookstore is the third poetry bookstore in the country. This may come to a surprise to those who would guess there would be at least three (or more) in San Francisco or perhaps New York City.

But it's true.

According to Publisher's Weekly, there are indeed only two other bookstores throughout the entire United States that devote their entire stock to poetry. Although there are other stores that have a great variety of poetry material, notably Beat haven City Lights in San Francisco, these stores also offer other selections. Barnes and Noble, for example, does sell poetry books, but their stock of the genre makes up only one percent of their overall offerings.

The two other stores in the country are Seattle's Open Books and Grolier's in Cambridge, Mass. In addition to working at a Waldenbooks in the past, Buckley also worked at Grolier's. It was when his wife and he decided to move to Boulder for the sense of community and fine school system they were looking for, that the duo were finally able to live their dream of opening their own store.

Together they want Innisfree to be more than merely a poetry bookstore and café, but also a meeting place for local poets and writers, people who are interested in discussing poetry and literature, or possibly simply finding a calm reprieve from the storm of daily life outside of Innisfree's 460 square feet.

Hunter and Buckley took the name for their store from a poem written by William Butler Yeats. "Lake Isle of Innisfree" was a response to Henry David Thoreau's immortal "Walden." In Yeats' poem, Innisfree was his own special place to "get away from it all," his own Walden. The Innisfree co-owners hope their store can be such a place for Boulderites and tourists alike.

"Kate and I felt strongly about creating a daily living place," said Buckley, a Boston native who met his wife serendipitously enough in a poetry grad school class at the University of Massachusetts. "Kate's a poet, and I'm a poet. You don't always want to just go out to a reading to meet other poets and discuss poetry with them. We've seen people come here often and converse over a cup of tea. It's not just a once in a while thing here."

Hunter hails from Toronto and has dabbled in other fields aside from poetry, including her own massage business that she might continue in some regard while in Boulder. "For now, I'm focused on [the store]," she said.

For Buckley, "poetry is really democratic." Hence why his wife and he feel Boulder is a perfect place to house such a progressive concept. "Poetry has called people from every race, sexual orientation, and so forth. We still see certain impediments in other places, but it's nice to be in a place that represents all people."

Although the store had its soft opening on December 10th, Innisfree won't be officially open for business until January 15th, when Buckley and Hunter will be having a grand opening gala. The free event will include hourly readings on the street corner by local poets such as Colorado laureate David Mason. There will also be giveaways and samples of Innisfree's house coffee, Boulder mainstay Conscious Coffee, which won Roast Magazine's coveted Micro Roaster of the Year Award for 2011.

Thereafter, Innisfree will hold weekly readings every Thursday night at 7 p.m., and will hold occasional open mics that will include spoken word in addition to poetry and musical performances.

"Like a poem, this shop is still editing itself," said Hunter. "City codes and all the stuff you never hear about. The ultimate poem will be our opening."

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