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Meet the team

Find out about our librarians & assistants. Back row, left to right: Emily, Will, Karen (former Support Librarian), Russell, Chris. Front row: Troy, Elspeth, Nina, Lorraine.

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.

Sonia Hope, Support Librarian

I first visited the NPL as a student in 2002 and, because I rarely throw anything away, I still have that long-expired library card! I began to visit more regularly when I worked as Librarian at the Hayward Gallery from 2014-2018; during that time I was lucky enough to work temporarily at the NPL and fell in love with the collection. When I learned about an opportunity to return on a more permanent basis in 2023 I jumped at the chance. I’m drawn to hidden histories in the collection: for example, important black British feminist anthologies from the 1980s such as A Dangerous Knowing: four Black Women Poets which includes Jackie Kay and Grace Nichols, and the Caribbean poets published by Savacou in Jamaica, many of whom migrated to Britain in the 1940s, ‘50s and 60s. But the NPL is also the place to discover contemporary poetry in all its forms.

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.

Troy Cabida, Library Assistant

I'm lucky to have already formed a relationship with the National Poetry Library, prior to working here. It has been a place for me to find new poems to chew on, where I (more than) once cried over unfinished drafts and manuscripts, as well as a meeting place for myself and my friends, many of whom are some of the most talented poets I know writing today. A poetry night I serve as producer on, called Poetry and Shaah, once held a show in the library, too! One of the first books I remember discovering through the library, and being so elated about, was Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters, a collection of previously unpublished poems written by the actress Marilyn Monroe. 

Emily Wood, Library Assistant

I first discovered the NPL totally by chance in 2013, before going to a performance in the Royal Festival Hall. I immediately felt like I’d stumbled across a hidden gem, getting so absorbed in the magazines that I almost totally missed the start of the gig! Later, whilst working at The Hayward Gallery and by this time playing around writing my own poetry, I used to squeeze in visits between breaks to listen to recordings on CD of The Black Mountain Poets. Since working here I have made so many incredible discoveries, from poetic objects like Nancy Campbell's After Light, to exciting new presses like Prototype and Earthbound. It’s such a unique collection and as I’m shelving William Blake alongside Contemporary Cowboy Love Poetry, I chuckle and think “I’m so happy this place exists”.

Elspeth Walker, Library Assistant

I can’t remember how I stumbled across the library. I just know one day I scoped it out its whereabouts before I stepped inside, heading straight to Jackie Kay's section for a copy of The Lamplighter (a radio play which sadly wasn't there, but I’m glad to say is now part of the collection). Having studied BA Creative Writing & English Literature and worked at the Hayward Gallery, I jumped at the chance to join the National Poetry Library. I'm now doing an MA in Writing at the RCA, focusing on writing as an artistic practice, and I love to cocoon in the library - even better that I get to work here! I admire the collection's diverse take on what constitutes poetry; from Jenga, party poppers, postcards and sound art to classic print anthologies, this is the home of words pushed to their limits. My highlights are anthologies that play with form and with the reader's interaction with the text, such as Patience, Intertitles, and The Dark Would. A perfect space for any word nerd!