The first time was in 2016, when Swift – a poet and client of Open Books – took over from store founders John Marshall and Christine Deavel, who opened the independent Open Books in a low-rise building overlooking the street in the Wallingford neighborhood in the mid-1990s. And this spring, Swift is opening Open Books in a new chapter in Pioneer Square.
After announcing late last year that the store’s lease would not be renewed and that the building would be put up for sale, Open Books (poetic caption: “A Poem Emporium”) closed its doors in February. But it wasn’t for long. Thanks in part to a successful fundraising campaign, Swift is reopening the beloved store this month in the Good Arts Building, a historic brick building in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, just in time for National Health Month. poetry and Independent Bookstore Day (April 30).
The move marks a turning point – a volta, in poetic terms, in the store’s rich history. But the hope is to make it work to the next line, more like a step over. “We’re going to create a space that we hope will last another 25 years,” Swift says.
On a recent weekday afternoon, the store is still very much in transition. Some books are stacked on shelves in the back, but many other anthologies, chapbooks and rare books (from New Generation African Poets for The speech revolution) are still locked in several dozen emerald plastic moving boxes, the piles of which form a small maze in the compact, dark space. Already unpacked: the oldschool typewriter from Open Books, lying on a table by the window. His “paper fingers” hold a blank page stating a humble mission: “Trying to meet your poetry needs since 1995”.
The sky outside has turned an ominous gray, but inside the store – which features plum walls, exposed beams supported by cast-iron columns – you wouldn’t know it, as the windows are still covered with paper. Right now, Swift is staring at an empty set of custom-built shelves between the window and the register, pondering an important decision. Where to put the anthologies?
These are the kinds of decisions Swift will be faced with in the coming days: How do you find room for over 10,000 books in a space that’s 350 square feet smaller than the previous space, which was known for its smaller footprint?
“That space looks a lot bigger, but in reality it’s smaller – that’s one of the things we’re working on,” Swift says.