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The Poetry Library, Southbank Centre

Image Credit: 
Southbank Centre / The Poetry Library
Inside The Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre

The Poetry Library, Southbank Centre

Image Credit: 
Southbank Centre / The Poetry Library
Inside The Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre

Find out about our librarians & assistants.

Chris McCabe

Image Credit: 
Cesare De Giglio
Chris McCabe, National Poetry Librarian

Chris McCabe, National Poetry Librarian

I first visited the library with a day return train ticket from Liverpool. Two years later, in 2002, I was lucky to get a job as a library assistant and on my first day at work I met poet and musician Ivor Cutler. I later found out that Ivor’s visits to the National Poetry Library was the inspiration for Franz Ferdinand’s song ‘Jacqueline’, the namesake of the song being a previous library assistant (‘Jacqueline was seventeen / Working on a desk / When Ivor / Peered above a spectacle...’). Since then, I have made so many discoveries of poets I couldn’t live without, from first opening Barry MacSweeney’s Pearl to finding Rosemary Tonks’ weathered editions about 1960s underground London life. These past collections are continuously built upon, with the arrival of dozens of new books each week. Every time I come to work I feel that the next discovery is waiting to be found.

Lorraine Mariner, Assistant Librarian

I first found out about the National Poetry Library whilst studying at Library School; a fellow student told me about the library when they found out I dabbled in poetry. Could such a library really exist! I followed the net and ball carpet through the Royal Festival Hall to Level 5, became a member, and would pop in on my way home from work (as a cataloguer at other libraries) to look at the magazines and decide which ones to send my poems to. I never imagined I’d get the chance to work here until a cataloguing job came up. Over a decade later I’m still here doing a bit of everything. An early memory of using the library is reading a poem in an anthology by Alden Nowlan, wanting more, and lo and behold there on the shelves were his books from Canada.

Will René, Assistant Librarian

My first visit to the National Poetry Library was in 2016, trying to slip by unnoticed in my ill-fitting suit just after my job interview here for a library assistant position. To give myself an idea of the extent of the collections, I went straight to the 'M's to see how many editions of Mayakovsky's work the library holds, and was awestruck by the breadth and variety available to read on the shelves. A breath of fresh air after years of small poetry sections in seaside town charity bookshops! This sense of wonder hasn’t left me since, and it's always a joy to make new discoveries - from 20th century poets in translation such as Inger Christensen and Pierre Reverdy, to exciting and playful new presses such as SPAM and Trickhouse.

Karen Smith, Support Librarian

A lifelong library devotee, I discovered the NPL whilst reading English Lit. at Goldsmiths. I’d linger by the entrance, eyeing the new books display and feeling like a treasure hunter with too many prospects. I carried on coming during my MA in Modern Poetry (when I fell in love with the New York School) and then couldn’t stop (you mean a student librarian actually chose to analyse resources for... contemporary poetry?!). I joined the team in 2014 as a Cataloguer, and after a short spell working for Goldsmiths (again) I’m thrilled to be back. It’s such a special collection and I just adore describing our incredible haul of artists’ books. 

Nina Powles, Library Assistant

The National Poetry Library was one of the first places I visited when I moved to London. Right away it felt a bit like my home away from home. A zinemaker at heart, I'm always on the lookout for strange, gorgeous poetry pamphlets and zines that are also interesting, tactile physical objects. Some of my favourite items include Pema Monaghan's acid-yellow riso-printed pamphlet The Last Word on Mum, a rare edition of Yoko Ono's artist book Grapefruit, and Nancy Campbell's hazy, haunting set of letterpress prints, How to Say 'I Love You' in Greenlandic

Russell Thompson, Library Assistant

In the late 1980s I belonged to a poetry group in Essex, and one month we had a special guest: Mary Enright from somewhere called the Poetry Library. Excitingly, Mary invited us to hold our next meeting at the library itself. Us Chelmsford hicks in that there London! On the day, the library didn't disappoint. A jolly fun place to work, I thought. A mere thirty years later, my wish (if that's what it had been) came true. By then, I'd spent a decade teaching creative writing, a decade programming spoken-word events, and a decade traipsing round the poetry-cabaret circuit in a skirt. These days I can usually be found on the library’s front desk, hoping that some of this experience has ultimately been to the greater good of our customers.

Elspeth Walker, Library Assistant

 

Emily Wood, Library Assistant