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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.

Chris McCabe

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

Chris McCabe, National Poetry Librarian

I first visited the library on a day return train ticket from Liverpool. Two years later (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 were 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...’). I’ve made so many discoveries of poets I couldn’t live without, from first opening Barry MacSweeney’s Pearl to finding Rosemary Tonk’s weathered editions about 1960s underground London life. Every time I come to work I feel 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

Admittedly my first visit to the National Poetry Library was trying to slip by unnoticed in my ill-fitting suit just after my job interview here, to see whether the collection could possibly live up to the somewhat utopian ideal I had formed of it in my mind. I was not disappointed, and I’ve still not lost the sense of wonder and excitement I felt when I first saw how vast and rich a collection it is. I’ve grown particularly fond of the library’s broad and ever-changing collection of magazines, especially the idiosyncratic low budget journals that breathe so much life into the shelves – Zarf and SPAM are highlights at the moment.