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The Independent Culture
A public library is, by definition, a place which attracts the slightly scruffy; those in need of warmth or a snooze as much as a good read. It is there, after all, to encourage private pleasures. A poetry library, on the other hand, attracts simi lar quantities of scruffy, snoozy types, but lends them an air of forgotten purpose, the semblance of poet manque. It may be, then, that this is the perfect moment to introduce your current dishevelled self to the cosy sanctuary on the fifth floor of the RoyalFestival Hall.

Forty-one years old, with 50,000 volumes of 20th-century verse, open for almost all of the festive season, the Poetry Library could be frantically, dauntingly academic. Instead it distracts you with an eccentric array of reader services. There's the wal l with cute poms (sic) by schoolchildren. There's "Lost quotations", the notice-board of half-remembered lines seeking completion ("A poem about a man needing solitude but constantly being interrupted. Includes words along the lines of `reading John Pilge r's/distant distant voices' Author? Source? Title?").

Then there are the mags, the unfriendly computer, the big name audio-tapes, the singles by John Cooper Clarke and, if you really can't face concrete poets or contemporary Swedish poetry anthologies, the videos - Walt Whitman, Sorley Maclean, you name th e m, they're there. So, in the words of the US video poetry mag, Off the Page, "Sit back, relax, and let the creative genius of poetic artists come off the page and enter your mind's eye with brilliance and imagination." Or something like that.

Open seven days a week including New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, 11am-8pm, membership free (details 071-921 0943/0664)