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Matt Clifford • December 16, 2015 • Lifestyle • 

Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café is closing.

(Article written before disclosure of Innisfree moving to the Buchanan’s Coffee location)

That sucks.

It doesn’t take a poet to express the obvious detriment of losing one of only a handful of bookstores nationwide dedicated to the craft. Compounding the loss, though, is the fact that this was not some noble failure of an outmoded art form or harsh modern economic reality. The harsh economic reality is that good enough isn’t enough anymore. Innisfree is a thriving business, despite being kettled by Starbucks at both the north and south entrances of the Hill’s main commercial district. They sought a long-term lease, and were offered a single year at double the rate.



Photo by Matt Diss

The softening news is that operations will shift largely across the street to Buchanan’s Coffee Pub, already under the same ownership and operating its own calendar of events. No jobs will be lost, but the book section will have to be scaled down to mostly contemporary and local sections. The coffee will still be fair trade. The poets will still speak.

It is important to note that Innisfree’s closing is not due to the nature of its business nor the disinterest of its community. This is not a death of spirit, merely a shifting of earthly forms. Now it is known.

Innisfree was a cool fucking spot and I will miss it like so much else that has passed. I have been going there since I moved to Colorado in 2011.

The Tuesday open mic has been a constant for longer than that, my favorite time to be there. Recent Tuesdays have averaged 20 readers, with even more there just to listen. Tables cozy and standing room only, a poet down in the round corner projecting through the layers of walls, words.


Photo by Matt Diss

And listen they do. Of Boulder’s open mics, I have found Innisfree’s to be the more conducive for reading a quieter, thoughtful, tender, or perhaps more abstract piece without fear of being lost in the room’s noise or size, freed of any obligation to “entertain” the audience. Current host Tootles Methuselah holds a welcome, generous, personal space, reflecting in real time, in real space in front of you, his bodily absorption of language freshly delivered. His responses are heartfelt, gentle, and often humorous, a perfect backdrop for the dramatic to transpire. It is a lesson in how to listen to poetry and the permission to do so. Not uncommon a sight was the crowd lingering afterword in the afterglow, friendly.

Often the baristas themselves participate in these events, as often the baristas are poets themselves. Brian and Kate, the dreamers of Innisfree, have long supported local artists in any and all ways that they could, far beyond what can be enumerated here. It is this constant dedication to poetry- the poetic space and the poetic logic- to listen, engage, learn, meet, participate with poetry that made Innisfree so special. While many spots host events, Innisfree’s co-mingled with, and were indeed an expression of, its own identity.


Photo by Matt Diss

In a literal sense, the physical space of Innisfree also lent it a unique dynamic. Partitioned into roughly three sections, one was offered a choice upon entrance. To get to the counter was to have to walk through the book stacks, itself a sensory experience. It was possible to stay in attendance with those books, peruse the catchy covers and flashy structures within, have a feeling or two. The middle section provided necessary café offerings, tables for laptops, cups and chatting. The stage was tucked neatly downward in a back corner, so that it purveyed the entire room. It seemed an appropriate spot to speak from, the voice of god-for-moment filling the air.

Inside, however, was not the only point of view. The stage doubled as the content of a window television screen, passerby just feet away on the sidewalk and seeing clear at you. It tested the mettle of performers, the attentive audience combined with unheard pedestrians. Their reactions, whether loud windowbang or silent confusion or total ignorance, could not help but alter the presentation of elements materializing. It was often entertaining, especially given the Hill’s demographics. It is always important, to make visible art in public, to let know this happens.


Photo by Matt Diss

There is so much else that could be said. Perspectives, memories.

There is so much more that could be said.

Another victim of a greedy market. We could use this as the basis of a whole analytic.

There is time for all of that. Do it. This is not the space for that.

This here, now, is another goodbye. It is the nature of counterculture, accustomed to movement. The Hill is being revitalized or renewed or rebranded or some shit, ask the luxury students and their developers for the latest buzzfood. That Brian and Kate will stand in the middle of it and insist on art where power keeps insisting it isn’t wanted is that indomitable spirit, defiant and productive. If America hasn’t managed to kill poetry yet, one more closed storefront isn’t going to do it.


Buchanan’s Coffee Pub

Writ to Submit For The Hive, an Innisfree Publication, some time back


“The Book Store of Innisfree”

And when I rise, I arise

I arise, go and am gone

For night and day




And when it rises,

hills      ideas      community

coffee    chocolate      herbals       tea

fair traded

barista speak language real

I find peace in the microphone

compose the outside of a window

motivated by fraternal banging

passing through moving images

Follow what I cannot see

And what I see when I come back

purple beauty of honey people trying on sticky wings,

hives of lives bound together standing to fly,

dropped veils of perfection into the immediacy of eyes

achieving shared tables and friendship

Discoveries on bookshelves

There are thinning bookshelves in this country

There is much space

The space arises with patience

I have a patient heart filled with enthusiasms

You can hear the beat of its Poetry




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