* In the Mecca by Gwendolyn Brooks [New York ; Evanston ; London : Harper & Row, 1968]
In the Mecca by Gwendolyn Brooks - the first African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry - was the poet’s first collection of poetry after a gap of ten years, and saw her writing with renewed power and urgency about working-class black lives and social injustice. This first edition copy held by the library is made particularly special by a handwritten inscription by Brooks: “For Floyd, Sincerely and with Pride, Gwendolyn Brooks, October 19, 1983.”
* To Answer! by Vladimir Mayakovsky [S.l.: M.C. Caine : Privately Printed, 1982]
This unique item was privately published in a limited edition of 55. The colophon reads that the book was produced to commemorate the ‘arrival of Mayakovsky in London’ - an enigmatic claim, given that the Russian poet died in 1930, having never visited London. The eight pages of this beautiful item contain an English translation of a single poem written in 1917, with text set in bold type, with Russian characters boldly spelling out the poet’s name in black and red along the top of the pages. The poem’s anti-war sentiment - ending with the question “WHY ARE WE FIGHTING?” - resonates even after more than a century.
* short-cuts by Erica Van Horn and Simon Cutts [Clonmel, Tipperary : Coracle, 2008]
Active since 1975, Coracle have long been playing with the notion of the book as an object in interesting ways, and over the years they have produced a huge number of strange, beautiful and ephemeral objects. 2008’s short-cuts - made by Erica Van Horn and Simon Cutts, who run the press - is an artist’s book in the form of a concertina folded card, which simply presents words used in Britain to describe alleyways or shortcuts between buildings, from ‘jowlers’ to ‘snickleways’. With its emphasis on language and materiality, this item fits perfectly among the library’s unique holdings of rare poetry pamphlets and ephemera
Poetry International is a major biannual poetry festival founded by Ted Hughes in 1967. The Southbank Centre’s longest running festival, Poetry International returns for the first time since 2019 to examine ecopoetry and the environment, celebrating poets as activists and those using their craft to preserve languages and environments. Poetry International runs at the Southbank Centre July 21-23.
The Southbank Centre’s National Poetry Library is the largest public collection of modern poetry in the world and is housed in the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre in London. Founded by the Arts Council in 1953 and opened by poets T.S. Eliot and Herbert Read, the library contains over 200,000 items spanning from 1912 to the present day, extensive resources for poets, academics, schools and families. Hosting exhibitions and events, as well as offering an extensive catalogue and ebook service accessible online, the library is free to use.