Tucked away in the airy reaches of the Royal Festival Hall, the Saison Poetry Library has been described by Radio 4 as ‘one of the great libraries of the world’. This year it has gathered a range of the world’s finest poets to mark its 60th anniversary in what must be the most literary birthday party ever.
Host Simon Armitage will be kicking off the party, followed by readings from Antipodean legend Fleur Adcock, the mesmerising Highlands poet Jen Hadfield, Daljit Nagra and Warsan Shire – all renowned for pushing the spoken word in surprising directions. The poets have raided the shelves and will be reading their favourite snippets from the tomes, along with new work inspired by them. There will also be the chance to view poetry films from the Poetry Library’s archives before the live readings.
Take the chance to wander around while you’re there. Packed into the library is every poetry book a reader could wish for – and if it’s not there, a member of staff will search the world to find it.
But the Poetry Library is not purely a treasure trove of literature – it is a place of historical and emotional significance to many poets who have sought out its peaceful atmosphere to contemplate, compose or call upon their muse. Ted Hughes himself described ‘sitting in there all day all curled up with book clamped over mouth inhaling deeply’.
If you’ve a little time to spare, arrive early and take a look around the library’s free exhibition of work by conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, who merges text and image to provocative effect (open 11am-8pm until 31 December). The exhibition features a new work created in honour of the library’s 60th anniversary, using found texts from a diverse range of bards including William Blake and James Merrill.
Only a few tickets left, so book now.