A Poetic Delay by Karen A. Chase
Shelf Pleasure contributor Karen A. Chase shares her journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories in her regular feature, Will Travel for Words. This month, she finds pleasure and inspiration in a surprising spot, during an airport layover.
Layovers between flights make my feet itchy. With most brief layovers there’s a city or landscape I could be exploring just beyond the corridors of expensive or fast food. I could be wandering somewhere inspiring; instead I’m trapped in the most uncomfortable chairs in the world. (True it’s a haven for people watching, but that’s another story.)
So imagine my delight to discover my altered flight plan north to visit my parents would result in a seven-hour delay in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Now for those not from Minnesota I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, it ain’t Paris, honey.” But experience tells me that nearly every city can offer a good bookstore, good people and tasty food.
So through Facebook I reached out to a local bookstore, Common Good Books, and told them I was heading their way. Their eager reply to come visit, and their warm words of welcome when I arrived, was music to my ears. They even stashed my bags in a back room so I could wander among their carefully curated collection of books and typewriters.
Amid their shelves, with handwritten notes by staff providing reviews of books I’d not yet read, I also found a writing desk. A pair of large red sneakers. And a director’s chair. All of them belonging to one famous writer. It turns out, this is not only a terrific independent bookshop, but the proprietor is none other than Garrison Keiller, the host and founder of A Prairie Home Companion and the voice behind The Writer’s Almanac.
Although he doesn’t sit behind the counter, his desk, tucked in a corner, and piled with books, is the one upon which he wrote from a New York apartment. His influence also explains the amazing poetry section–the largest, most comprehensive one I’ve seen in a bookstore to date.
Consequently, I left the bookstore not only with a new book in my hand, but words spinning in my head I never would have found in the airport. That stop-over carried my happy feet down the street to a local pub, The Blue Door, where I shared travel stories with other solo diners. And it inspires me to write this:
A Poem For the Bookstore of Saint Paul
You gave respite from my weary flights
Long delays and dreary forays
And bland food, overpriced
Instead my mind flew through your words
Amid common, good books
And uncommon, good folks
It was solace I found in your soliloquies
Rejuvenation in your novel reviews
Your shelves of stories, a sanctuary
Minnesota, I’ll say, was simply a poetic delay
One I hope to repeat line and verse
When once again for words, I will travel
Karen A. Chase is a regular contributor to Shelf Pleasure, sharing journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories and novels in her monthly feature, Will Travel for Words. She is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, winner of seven Independent Book Publishing Awards for travel and design. She is currently working on an historical novel set during the American Revolution. Find Karen on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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