A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Bookshop Superheroes: Open Books

In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols during the past year in the service of getting the just-right book to the just-right hands, our Bookshop Superheroes blog series features our partner bookstores with special Instagram takeovers that afford a glimpse into a day in their store. (Are you following SAL on Instagram? Check us out!) This week, we’re featuring Open Books: A Poem Emporium who is taking over our Instagram today, Tuesday, June 29!

As one of the nation’s only bookshops dedicated entirely to poetry, it’s hard to overstate the significance of Open Books: A Poem Emporium as a gathering space for local and traveling poets. Its 500 square foot Wallingford storefront is small, yet its curation process is top-notch, highlighting thoughtful staff collections, debut works, and all the indie presses you can name. On top of their readings, workshops, and group discussions, they’ve been invaluable partners of SAL’s Poetry Series over the years.

Open Books got started in April 1995, under the proprietorship of John W. Marshall and Christine Deavel, who decided to turn a general interest bookstore into a store focused exclusively on poetry and poetry-related titles. Marshall and Deavel passed the reigns to the store’s current owner, Billie Swift, in 2016. During the pandemic, Open Books found its shop initially shuttered, but the team worked tirelessly together to open a digital space, keeping poetry books flowing into our hands all year, for which we’re very grateful.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

While online sales certainly helped carry us in the beginning of the pandemic, 2021 has been a challenge. With events still pretty limited, and our online sales slowing significantly, we’re hoping in-store shopping will bring a needed boost in sales this year. We are currently open for in-store shopping Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm, and our online store is always open!

How have you innovated during this time?

We’d been wanting to expand the offerings of our online store for a while, but the pandemic forced us to finally do it. Now, at our website, shoppers can browse specially curated categories such as Speculative & Sci-Fi Poetry; Black Poets on Justice, Abolition, & Black History; and Poetry in Translation, where they might stumble upon a book they didn’t even know they needed. People can easily purchase books, chapbooks, rare collectibles, subscription services, or gift certificates from us with just a few clicks. Fulfilling these online orders and sending out our subscription books has been the main way we’ve been able to keep in touch with our customers throughout the pandemic, while our brick-and-mortar store was closed.

What are some of the top best sellers this year? 

Sylvia Pollack’s Risking It (Red Mountain); Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb (Viking); Diane Seuss’s frank: sonnets (Graywolf); and We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel (Nightboat).

Thank you, Open Books!

Posted in Behind the Scenes