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a portrait of the bookstore as home

when we talk about the literary city, we are talking about action, about movement, about conversation, but also about the physical places that house the renaissance.

a portrait of the bookstore as home
Illustration by Joe Duncan

when we talk about the literary city, we are talking about action, about movement, about conversation, but also about the physical places that house the renaissance.

literature is an invisible, everyday magic.

once you know the soul of a book, it is possible, at any time, to summon the heart of its pages. i am forever mystified at how an inked piece of flimsy, pulped wood can transform an ordinary moment into something so much more grand. i marvel at how far an idea travels when it is made of poetry.

there is as much comfort in communing with words as there is in communing with others whose ears bend in the same direction. on our journeys we meet fellow travelers who hear the same voices, the voices that beg us to look up, think wide, pursue knowledge and heart, read.

we have begun to become ourselves these days

check the pulse of our city/this literary community: we have begun to become ourselves these days. we are finding each other. finally: we have more places to find each other.

when the wild detectives threw their doors wide open in 2014, we the people were invited–no –encouraged to make it our own. when deep vellum books announced their arrival at the end of 2015, it was another answered prayer to the literary powers that be. of course, when i say bookstore, i don’t always necessarily mean a single building, but rather a whole symbiotic network between the poet and the spaces in which she operates as writer/reader/listener.

maybe what i am trying to say is that with more sunshine, there are more flowers.

even in this life of constant reading and working with writers and book people, i still find myself sometimes perplexed by the literary call. i have felt the centered weight of books in my own life; i have watched how the written word leaves its mark on those who touch it.

i can trace my own literary sickness back to the moment i held my first library card, a small girl wandering through aisles and aisles of books, marveling breathlessly at the vast quantity of things she did not know. (now that i think about it, very little has changed.)

books were the opposite of loneliness

throughout childhood, my folks relocated too often to establish home or friendships. i spent most of my time in the nearest library and i slept with a flashlight, casting long shadows across bedroom walls, absorbing books under the covers until late into the night. forever an odd kid, it was when i was reading that i felt the most at peace, the most understood. books were the opposite of loneliness.

trying to be cool in middle school never worked: i ate too many books. in high school i spent a long time in a facility for troubled children, where outside contact was almost nonexistent: imagine, if you will, my relief when i discovered the dusty basement library. even its sparse collection of tomes was a gold mine for my hungry eyes. like any other difficult time in my life, before or since, where there are books, i know i will find a way to survive.

imagine the bookstore as a celestial being: the north star.

i cannot explain how some of us are born with a compass that cannot find itself without the pull of books, the rush of language, but i do know that to have a mind for literature requires an intense thirst to learn. it is a quest to taste the numberless sensations of living.

have you ever noticed that the inside of a bookstore grows to fit all who wish to be inside? countless souls fill the space: the stories on the shelves and the hearts that fought for their right to be there, the living that continue to breathe life into those stories and write new chapters. the world gets bigger every time we speak across pages, across rooms, across memory. daily our poets sacrifice fresh ink to honor and chronicle our existence. if we don’t nurture and connect the readers and writers among us, how can we expect our legacy, our moment in time, to reach the future?

like a book giving eternal life to its contents, the documentation of our survival is alive and well when we are actively expressing and engaging with it.

literature is the opposite of silence.

and dallas? we will not be silent. the doors are open. the poets have been here, writing their names on the bricks. when we talk about the literary city, we are talking about action, about movement, about conversation, but also about the physical places that house the renaissance. the bookstore is as alive as we are.

as a humble poet who lives just up the road in denton, i can only describe a small cross-section of what i see happening here:

where there is a bookstore, there is a sense of belonging. not every book is for everyone, but every book is for someone.

it is the wild detectives’ dedication to reaching out and collaborating with writers on even the most unusual concepts for poetry & art shows–it is the trust they have in us to pursue everything we are capable of, as poets, artists, and so much more.

it is other people’s poetry breathing life back into the words of those who came before us.

it is the dallas poetry slam bringing so much brilliance to the scene that our city had the honor of hosting the 9th annual women of the world poetry slam this year.

it is pegasus reading series offering shelter to writers both near and far, closing the gap between our community & the national literary landscape.

it is pink drum & their impending vinyl poetry release, clocking the magnitude of artistic variety in our literary DFW.

it is wordspace shining a light down upon us, gracing us with resources to create within the spaces we love.

it is the attack of the poets rallying at lucky dog books.

it is anne, our patron saint of deep vellum, standing on a soapbox before a freezing poetry march last december, reminding us that the bookstore is a resource for the revolution, a place we should feel safe, that it exists for the people–not the other way around.

it is, undeniably, the indestructible holiness that is dark moon poetry & arts.

it is a coin-operated machine in deep ellum that dispenses small beautiful zines full of poetry instead of baseball cards.

it is Lit Hop.

it is all of this and more: a universe to call our own.

where there is a bookstore, there is a sense of belonging. not every book is for everyone, but every book is for someone.

in the same sense, a healthy literary community should have something for everyone. this is a stunningly beautiful idea to me. it allows for the greatest possibilities, the deepest conversations, the most important collaborations.

it gives us permission to be, to speak, to write.

it is home.

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Courtney Marie is a writer and artist currently living in Denton, Texas. she enjoys working with text as an art medium and performance object. her work has appeared in Spooky Girlfriend Press, Storm Cellar, Black Sun Lit, Souvenir Literary Journal, etc. but also in basements and bookshops and museums, street corners, bars, and art galleries; in cities all over the country. she is the co-founder and primary organizer of the art collective Spiderweb Salon (Best Literary Arts Group 2016, Dallas Observer), co-host of Pegasus Reading Series in Dallas, and the host of Spiderweb Salon’s literary podcast, produced by Pariah. as a recent finalist for the Lorien Prize, courtney marie has a chapbook forthcoming through Thoughtcrime Press. she has two cats and writes a lot of letters.