Merchant Spotlight: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe

The Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe in Boulder, Colorado on University Hill, was founded in 2010. As one of three exclusively-poetry bookstores in the United States, Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe creates and fosters a daily, living space for lovers of poetry, of all ages. Brian, and his wife Kate, have created a unique space on The Hill for poetry lovers, word enthusiasts and coffee aficionados. We asked owner Brian Buckley a few questions about his business (and be prepared for excessive eloquence...He's a writer, after all). 

Kate Hunter, Brian Buckley and their family 

Kate Hunter, Brian Buckley and their family 

The Hill Boulder: Brian, Can you talk a bit about your background? Where did you and Kate grow up and when did you move to Boulder? 

Brian Buckley: Kate is from Ontario, Canada and I am from West Roxbury, Massachusetts  - a neighborhood within the city of Boston. After the Peace Corps in Thailand I went to work with Navajo Tribe.  Kate received a degree in Spanish at Northern Arizona University.  We moved to Boulder in 2009 and I taught at Boulder High School.  Kate was pregnant with our second child child Clare at the time.  She was born March 5, 2010. 

The Hill Boulder: When did your love of poetry begin?

BB: In third grade I was a handful and had to memorize a poem about Sundays as punishment.  I loved the punishment. Perhaps because my father Paul was often reciting poetry around the house after a hard day's work as an electrician for the subways system.  In junior year of high school I had a magical teacher, Ken Conn.  Nothing moved me more deeply in high school, than his teachings on Whitman, Dickinson, Stein, and Stevens.  English was my most challenging subject prior to that experience.

Studying poetry in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, I met Kate.  I was also working at the oldest poetry bookstore in Cambridge - Grolier's.  I saw what a community could become - with poetry as the gathering force within the broader culture.  Kate is an amazing poet and editor.  She was thrilled to bring poetry to the public in a daily gathering space.  She designed the store how it is with that main goal in mind.  Kate now has three main poems: Norah, Clare, and Ruby

The Hill Boulder: If the Hill was a poem, which poem would it be, and why? 

BB:  It would be 

One Art


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Why this poem?  Everyone who wants to make the Hill a better, more vital place will have to lose something in the transition.  The result will be amazing but we all must lose something to achieve a more consistent, commercial district. This is also my favorite poem.  I have lost my parents and I have lost so much more.  The professor who guided me through this poem, Lloyd Schwartz, also guided me in the workshop in which Kate and I met.  He was a good friend of the poet Elizabeth Bishop.

The Hill Boulder: As the famous Robert Frost quote says, "I took the road less traveled by, and it has made all the difference..." Why did you decide to open your business on The Hill and was is your favorite part of the area?

BB: We came to the Hill because of its history of having protests against Rocky Flats.  We came to the Hill to be near the poetry classrooms of the University of Colorado.  We came to the Hill because what better place for the  most-committed  Fair Trade coffee roasters Conscious Coffees.  We came to the Hill because Boulder must spread its wings to move on, not huddle its flock on Pearl Street.  Our favorite part of the Hill, every single day, are  the outstanding hill residents and CU faculty and  students who have come to know and appreciate what we are trying to do.  Amazon and Starbucks will conquer the world unless the people vote otherwise.  Our blessed customers vote daily to keep a corner bookstore open and to support  Conscious Coffees, the most huge-hearted fair-trade roaster in town.  We thank everyone of these people everyday.  

We also donate a percentage of profits every year to The Northern Arizona Native-American Foundation, which assists high school students of Native-American descent with pursuing higher education.

You can visit Innisfree Poetry Bookshop and Cafe located at 1203 13th St. Suite A from 7am to 9pm seven days a week. To learn more visit

The Hill BoulderComment