Anybody want to buy a poetry bookstore?

We just got an e-mail from John Marshall, the co-owner of Open Books in Wallingford. (If you've never been, Open Books is one of a handful of poetry bookstores in the United States. And also, shame on you for living in Seattle and never going to Open Books.) Here it is, in its entirety:

Dear Friends of Open Books,

It is with mixed feelings that I tell you I will retire from bookstore ownership sometime this year. This spring will mark the 21st anniversary of Open Books as a poetry-only bookstore, as well as mark the 29th anniversary of my owning Open Books, which started life as a small general bookstore with a large poetry selection. Christine and I have built what we could and now are running out of the initiative to maintain and improve it.

What will happen to the bookstore? We don't know. We would like to have it carry on, so we will pursue selling the store -- its stock, its name, and perhaps a reasonable lease, since Christine and I own the building. There is considerable evidence that independent bookstores are having a resurgence in this country and that the sales of actual books will not sink beneath the waves of the e-book, an unimaginably freakish future some people somehow imagined. A new owner or owners may further establish Open Books as a great place to browse for poetry books and ephemera and as a cultural hub for those interested in printed poetry in the city, the state, and around the world. Christine and I hope to shop at Open Books. We rather suspect we will have that chance. If you know of potential next owners, please share this letter with them.

This transition need not happen quickly; the decision was not based on economics or health. Open Books will remain open regular hours, we will continue to order books and hopefully you will continue shopping here. By continuing to shop here you can be a partner to the store's changing hands. We will seek new ownership for up to four months. If by the end of June new ownership does not appear possible, we will look towards other options.

My feelings are mixed. These last twenty-eight plus years have been amazing. I've learned more about poetry and people and even commerce than I could ever have thought possible. I am pleased that Open Books has been a place where aesthetic and personal eccentricities are valued -- bookstores usually are, bless them all. The store has been, and will remain inextricably, my life. I will miss much of it, but I am ready to experience the pleasure of books and reading as entirely and solely personal. I may engage in the world of poetry as commerce again, and I may not. I am excited to learn by going where I have to go.

With great affection,


People, listen to me. Open Books is an absolute treasure, and it's a necessary fixture in Seattle's literary scene. If you, or someone you know, is interested in carrying on the Open Books legacy, please contact them immediately.

We'll have more on this story in the weeks to come.