Poetry has taken on new life at DUMBO’s Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, the only all-poetry bookstore in New York City.
Aiden Farrell, a volunteer who has been working at the store since February, said that the shop is a place where voices that normally wouldn’t be heard have a home.
“There’s such a wide range of things,” Farrell told Brooklyn Book Beat. “You’ll find less canon here than you’ll find contemporary experimental stuff.”
The few well-known names that Berl’s does stock, like Jorge Luis Borges and John Milton, seem stale when put alongside bright orange, DIY-looking booklets that combine verse and printed images.
“There’s a real focus on experimentation with book design,” Farrell said, showing that books can be visual and tactile rather than only intellectual and cerebral.
Take Eileen G’Sell’s “Portrait of My Ex with Giant Burrito,” whose front cover looks like a stitched-up piece of fiberglass insulation. Cotton linters, banana peels, seaweed, seashells and shredded money and other materials are combined to create a unique cloth-like cover. Some inside pages are also made of clear plastic, engaging the readers’ visual and tactile senses the whole read through.
Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop was founded by published poets Jared White and Farrah Field in 2010. According to the store’s website, Berl’s began as a Brooklyn Flea vendor. After three years at various locations around DUMBO, Berl’s finally settled into its current location at 141 Front St. where it also hosts events and author readings.
“I love this space. I’m a poet, and it’s great to be around all of these wonderful books,” Farrell said.
“[Poetry] is another way to be in the world.”