Bookshop Interview with Iris Appelquist


Iris Appelquist is the author of such books as A Banner Year and Nice Feelings, and Iris took a few moments to talk about the complex relationships we sometimes have with bookstores in our community.   

Prospero's Books (1800 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO)

1. How did you discover the shop?

About 17 years ago I was 18 and attending a poetry reading by accident. My friend Emily and I on a seat-of-our-pants excursion from our ‘burbs 10 minutes away. I probably recited an Ani DiFranco spoken word piece. That initiated many relationships that helped fuel my earliest serious attempts at poetry, though I had been writing since childhood. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that there were people who made their lives around whatever or everything they wanted to do.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Prospero’s?

I don’t really have a favorite part…I can say the thing I least like about it. There are plexiglass panes in the floor, you can see down into the basement level. One of the people then running the store said it was so that one of the owners could look up women’s dresses.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

About 80% of those pictured came from Prospero’s Books.


4. What is it about Prospero’s Books that makes you love it? What really sets it apart as a bookshop?

Well. There was another bookstore I wish I could have profiled for you, but it recently closed for business.

I don’t actually love it. I have to say that they have supported me personally and ‘professionally’ (if you can call writing poetry a profession) for a very long time, and without their help I would not have had many of the opportunities to which I’ve been availed and it’s the only bookstore standing to which I’ve made any kind of regular patronage…that being said, it’s increasingly clear to me that their choices and conduct as a business, and as representatives of the writing and reading community of Kansas City don’t align with my values, as I’ve come into my middle 30’s. I have a lot less patience for white boomers who think they’re cute for refusing to acknowledge changing social climes. Where their priorities are reflected in their actions around issues of inclusion and social responsibility (as an arts publisher and venue, and retail business), I find myself at odds with them.

They have been featured on the Colbert Report, and in the New York Times for a stunt concocted by the owners back in the ‘aughts (a staged book burning as a comment on the lack of readers), and they are the largest independent used books store in Kansas City. To say nothing of their history and commitment to literature would be a disservice to all the poets who’ve found venue with them, and to all the readers getting their kicks on the cheap. They enjoy a base of support from the community, regardless of their politics. But, really...I don’t fuck with them. Unfortunately for me, they control four of my titles.

Bio: Appelquist is a Kansas City native and psychology student at University of Missouri Kansas City