I spent Saturday afternoon wandering the Venice Boardwalk. Amidst the cacophony of street performers and tourists, I almost missed my planned visit to Small World Books, one of the few independent bookstores left in L.A. I walked in, and went to the poetry section, which was well stocked with titles from both national and local authors. Small World Books has always been a strong supporter of poetry, whereas chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble will put up a display for 30 days, and then, come May 1, take down the display and put the titles back in the obscure section of the bookstore.
Independent bookstores have a strong tradition of supporting poetry, both in books sales and hosting readings. For the poetry lover, here are a few recommendations:
Small World Books, 1407 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA, 90291 (310) 399-2360.
Best qualities: the poetry section is located in the front right hand side of the store, flush with the wall, with several well-stocked shelves of local, national, and international poets. Recommendation: Building the Barricade and other poems of Anna Swir, translated by Piotr Florczyk, copyright 2011, Calypso Editions, ISBN 978-0-9830999-1-8, 53 pgs, $15.
Vroman's Bookstore, 695 East Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, Ca 91101 (626) 449-5320
Best qualities: so many, including the fact that Vroman's holds many in-store events for local authors. The poetry section is located on the first floor, right hand side, several free-standing bookshelves filled with poetry anthologies, collections, chapbooks, etc. Recommendation: Vroman's is the only bookstore I've found that still carries Dover Thrift editions. For $1-$3, one can pick up some great classical works.
Skylight Books, 1818 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027
Best qualities: book recommendations from the staff, monthly poetry readings and writing groups. The poetry section is located in the center back half of the store (the last time I checked), and is always well-stocked with a variety of contemporary and classical poetry. Recommendation: Skylight stocks a fair number of art and literary 'zines, and I've always found something cool to take home.
Beyond Baroque: 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 (310) 822-3006
Best qualities: Just read the mission statement: “A place dedicated to the possibilities of language.” Beyond Baroque is ALL ABOUT POETRY! The bookstore was recently rededicated/ renamed The Scott Wannberg Bookstore and Poetry Lounge, to honor the memory of one of L.A's seminal poets. The bookstore is full of poetry books, literary journals, and portraits of the best of L.A. literati. The hours are limited, but it's still worth a visit. Recommendation: a yearly membership comes with a 10% discount on most items. The membership is tax deductible.
(article and photo copyright 2012 marie lecrivain)