The Poetry Library is a free public collection housed at Royal Festival Hall in London's Southbank Centre. Situated on the fifth floor of the Royal Festival Hall, overlooking the river Thames, the library aims to hold all contemporary UK poetry publications since 1912. It houses the largest collection in Britain, numbering over 200,000 items, including works by small presses. It also holds audio and video materials, critical texts and works for children for loan and reference.To visit The National Poetry Library and get the most from your holiday in London, create itinerary details personal to you using our London travel itinerary planner.
The library contains work by non-UK poets and publishers and press cuttings are also archived for members' research. Membership is free and material is borrowed through the national inter-lending library services or returned by post. The library provides support for schools nationally and locally. The venue has an exhibition and event space.
The library was established in 1953 on the recommendation of the Poetry Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain, with the remit of promoting modern and contemporary poetry. Opened by poets TS Eliot and Herbert Read, the library quickly grew beyond the capacity of premises and then the next, moving from Albemarle Street to Piccadilly, to Long Acre in Covent Garden and then to a larger space back in Piccadilly.
It has been located at the Royal Festival Hall since 1988, when Seamus Heaney opened the new venue. With the relocation, the library was given the Signal Poetry Collection of children's poetry books which had been held by Book House. This formed the basis for the library's body of works for children and young adults, available for loan and reference. The beech furniture was designed for the site by Terrance Conran. The library was closed from 2005 to 2007 during refurbishment of the Festival Hall building. Its re-opening was celebrated with London's first festival of literature.
The National Poetry Library Reviews
the moment I stepped in I ask if I need to sign in or whatever. and the staff told me "if you are not studying anything related to poetry I am afraid I need to ask you to leave." It's very rude and..... more »
Easy to get to, easy to find at the South Bank, which is well sign-posted from Waterloo Station, and an obvious destination along the banks of the Thames. Whatever floor you arrive at entering the... more »
This little library is the Crown Jewel of the Southbank Centre, one of the few free libraries in London, with the best silence to study at
SO MANY GOOD WORDS. Best place for poetry, free massive library on the southbank.
Plan your trip to London
Get a personalized planA complete day-by-day itinerary
based on your preferences
Customize itRefine your plan. We'll find the
best routes and schedules
Book itChoose from the best hotels
and activities. Up to 50% off
Manage itEverything in one place.
Everyone on the same page.
See all ›
See all ›
See all ›
Hidden gems in London
Side trips from London
Nearby attractions in London
Plans to The National Poetry Library by other users
60 days in England BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM December, popular sights Preferences: December Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 13 days in London BY A USER FROM BRAZIL January, popular sights Preferences: January Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 28 days in Belem & London BY A USER FROM BRAZIL February, popular sights Preferences: February Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 22 days in London BY A USER FROM KUWAIT December, popular sights Preferences: December Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium 23 days in United Kingdom, Paris & Spain BY A USER FROM INDIA December, kids, slow & easy, popular sights Preferences: December, kids Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Slow & easy 60 days in London BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES June, popular sights Preferences: June Attraction style: Popular sights Pace: Medium