Literary Travel

The Poetry Barn in West Hurley, NY

If you do a search on “Poetry Barn,” Google will first serve you an ad for Pottery Barn. Scroll right past that and you’ll arrive at the right destination — The Poetry Barn in West Hurley, New York, a private library and workshop/event space dedicated to all things poetic.

The Poetry Barn is the creation of founding director Lissa Kiernan, who converted a small barn into housing for an inviting 3,000+ volume lending library. In the surroundings of contemporary and classic poetry books, the space is a haven for a myriad of ongoing virtual and in-person workshops and occasional events.

The venue is located on a quiet residential road near the beautiful Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County, in the Catskill foothills region of New York State. If the weather cooperates, try to schedule some time to walk around the reservoir if you’re making a special trip.  Read More→

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Hobart Book Village, a Bibliophile’s Dream in Upstate NY

Have you ever heard of a book town or book village? Chances are you haven’t, if you live the U.S.; there are only three of them in all of North America. One of the most charming and accessible book towns is Hobart Book Village in upstate New York. (At right, a stack of books at LionEyes Books, which specializes in art books.)

It just so happens that Hobart, NY (Delaware County), one of North America’s rare book towns, is just a couple of hours from where I live in upstate New York. This book village was started in 2005 by local entrepreneur Don Dales; and while there has been a turnover in shops, the book village concept has been going strong in this hamlet for an impressive number of years.

The book town as a concept has caught on around the world, especially in Europe. It’s pretty much what it sounds like — a gathering of bookshops concentrated in the center of a small town or village. Read More→

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Renaissance House: A Retreat for Writers and Artists

In order to write, a writer must have to just look out the window and stare,” wrote Helene Johnson. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf famously wrote. Renaissance House is not able to give money, but they do offer a room of your own with a window to look out and stare. 

“The retreat provides the time in which to create new works or finish existing ones. Renaissance House is one of the few retreats designed for issue-oriented writers, writers of color and writers of social justice,” explained Abigail McGrath, founder and director of Renaissance House, daughter of poet Helene Johnson and niece of Dorothy West. “The program is offered to artists who do not have the luxury of time.” Read More→

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Bluestockings — A Radical Bookstore Treasure in NYC’s Lower East Side

Do you remember feminist bookstores (for those of you old enough to remember, that is)? Oh, and do you remember independent bookstores in Manhattan? For a while, there were less than a dozen, but that seems to be on the upswing, and amazingly, there are lots and lots of indie bookstores in Brooklyn and Queens.

One of Manhattan’s few independent bookstores (and only feminist bookstore) is Bluestockings, located in the lively Lower East Side.

It’s more than than a repository for feminist thought; their shelves are filled with a beautifully curated selection of more than 6,000 titles on queer and gender studies, resistance/liberation, capitalism, climate, race, and a selection of rad children’s books. Also on the shelves are zines, journals, and poetry collections. Read More→

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A Book Lover’s Reykjavik — Bookstores, Libraries, and Book Culture

Before my first visit to Iceland in the summer of 2018, when I spent the entire month of August at a writer/artist residency, I knew very little about the country generally and even less about its capital — especially that I’d find so many lovely bookstores in Reykjavik.

And prior to my trip, I’d been so busy that I had no time to do much research. I relied on word of mouth from friends who had visited and took a leap of faith that it would be a good experience.

Of course, I had seen photos of the otherworldly landscapes, but I would have only the shortest time in which to explore them; my stay was mainly within the confines of Reykjavik. And that turned out to be absolutely beyond fine. In fact, for a nerd and bookworm like myself, it was blissful. Read More→

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