Dominic Cavendish on literature

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The Independent Culture
Apres National Poetry Day, le deluge. You could get carried away imagining the Leesonian catastrophe waiting to befall bookseller-turned- poetry promoter Mike Goldmark. The man who would lure 5,000 into the Royal Albert Hall on Monday night to see the word made flash as it was in the beginning (1965) still has about half the tickets to offload. Why? It's not that his 15-strong line-up is unintriguing - Allen Ginsberg, Benjamin Zephaniah and Sorley MacLean are all worth coughing up for. But the concept is a bit too clunky for easy consumption. A Sixties-style "counter-culture" event in a stately pleasuredome; and, instead of young hotbloods like the Liverpool poets and the Beats, a wrinkly, predominantly male, hotchpotch.

A less traumatically grandiose testament to the legacy of that original gig can be found up in Manchester, where poetry is being brought to urban masses for the second year running via a 10-day festival. Its founder and director is the comedian-poet Henry Normal, who says he wants to repay the leg-up given him by "the older performance poetry guard". The programme plaits the heavy- and the lightweight: Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Jennings and Liz Lochhead on the one hand, Pam Ayres and the Liverpool poets on the other. Venues range from bookshops to nightclubs. Normal scriptwrites for Steve Coogan and Mrs Merton, but is underwhelmed by TV: "People always have to be slightly larger-than-life on TV, whereas in poetry you can be as big or as small as you like - it's real communication."

If you just want to get away from it all, you could do worse than go for a walk with Maire McQueeney tomorrow. Using textual analysis, biographical data and the odd secreted surprise, she will guide you through the landscapes of Winnie the Pooh (left) and The Day of the Triffids. Just the tikit, perhaps.

Goldmark evening, booking: 01572 821 424;

Manchester Poetry festival, info: 0161-242 2572;

McQueeney walks, info: 01273 607910

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