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Modern British and Irish Poetry: collections

The British Library has extensive collections of poetry in many of the languages of the world and from all periods up to the present time. Poems in books, periodicals, manuscripts, newspapers and sound recordings make up the greatest collection of its kind in the world. The literary criticism that supports the interpretation of poetry is also well represented, and the Library has exceptional coverage of foreign language poetry in English translation.

Modern British Collections 

The Library's rich collections of published modern British and Irish poetry derive from its special status as a Legal Deposit library. It is the greatest collection of modern British poetry in the world. As well as mainstream publishers, small press and artists' books (where poetry is often the primary text) are actively collected. The Library has also many poetry related sites in the Literature collections of the UK Web Archive.

Most poetry in the Library is first located on the online catalogues and ordered up to the reader's choice of reading room. However, collection guide pages have been written for a number of modern Authors including W. H. Auden, Basil Bunting, Bob Cobbing, Lawrence Durrell, Robert Graves, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, D. H. Lawrence, Mina Loy, Charlotte Mew, Lynette Roberts, Stevie Smith, and Dylan Thomas.

Explore the British Library
Curator’s Choice: Ten Modern Poetry Pamphlets
Modern British Collections: Authors (Selective List)
Modern British Collections: British Small Presses
Modern British Collections: Little Magazines
Modern British and Irish Poetry: Events and Links
Modern British and Irish Poetry: Reference Sources
UK Web Archive: Literature 

Poetry Manuscripts 

The Library's Manuscript Collections have significant poetry-related archives. From the twentieth century these include: The A. Alverez Archive; The George Barker Archive; The Mandeville Press; The Poetry Book Society; The Society of Authors; The Poetry Bookshop; and The Tambimuttu Archive.

There are also many significant individual manuscripts and manuscript volumes by such authors as: Bob Cobbing; T.S. Eliot; Robert Frost; Thomas Hardy; Ted Hughes; Elizabeth Jennings; Wilfred Owen; Sylvia Plath; Peter Porter; Siegfried Sassoon; Stevie Smith; Dylan Thomas; Derek Walcott; and W.B.Yeats.

Most major modern British poets are represented in some form or another in the Manuscripts Collections. A selection of modern poetry manuscripts is displayed in the Exhibitions Galleries.

Recorded poetry 

The British Library Sound Archive holds thousands of hours of recordings of poets reading and discussing their own work. Holdings include recordings of the following: W. H. Auden; Robert Browning; Basil Bunting; Amarjit Chandan; Bob Cobbing; H.D; T.S. Eliot; Allen Ginsberg; Ted Hughes; David Jones; Philip Larkin; Robert Lowell; Hugh MacDiarmid; Louis MacNeice; Marianne Moore; Charles Olson; Sylvia Plath; J.H. Prynne; Tambimuttu; Charles Tomlinson; William Carlos Williams; W.B.Yeats; and Louis Zukofsky.

Broad collections include: BBC Sound recordings; The British Council's "The Poet Speaks" series; National Poetry Centre readings; Cambridge Festival readings; Cheltenham Festival readings; and Edinburgh Festival readings.

Rare recordings of poets born in the nineteenth century are collected on the British Library CD, The Spoken Word: Poets (2003).

PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.