If you love poetry, there’s an exhibition to visit. If you don’t love poetry but do love old buildings, there’s an exhibition to visit.

The old chapel of the Rolls Estate was used for worship as part of the Public Records building, but also storage of the parchment rolls of the Courts of Chancery. When the Public Records moved out it was acquired by King’s College in 2001 and converted into a huge and very impressive library, while the old chapel was kept as an exhibition space.

The current exhibition charts the development of innovative and experimental poetry throughout the course of the 20th century in the United States and Great Britain.

Like a lot of their displays in the past, it’s basically a number of glass cases with books and documents to look at — although this time, with more than the usual amount of information cards displayed to help put the poets into their respective contexts.

I am no poet, so some of the more famous names were recognised, many were not, and hence the display boards really helped to understand why this person was included. The display is partially chronological and partially thematic.

Highlights include correspondence from Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, first editions of works by Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, and H.D., signed copies by William S Burroughs and Michael McClure, and rare publications by Gary Snyder and Amiri Baraka.

Subjects and movements represented include the Beats, the Black Arts movement, small presses and periodicals, the British Poetry Revival of the 1970s and concrete poetry — which it turns out has nothing to do with building materials.

The exhibition is free to visit Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm and Sat 10am-6pm, and you may be asked to produce some ID when going in — and you need to fill in a small form with your details. It’s open until 14th December and is free to visit. The Maughan Library is on Chancery Lane at the Fleet Street end.

If you can’t visit but really want to – then helpfully they’ve put the detailed notes online so at least you can read them.

If however, poetry is not your thing, then at least pop in to admire the chapel itself, with huge 18th and 19th century stained glass windows and medieval funeral monuments.


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