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The Independent Culture
Poetry International runs to 3 Nov. Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London, SE1 Booking and information: 0171-960 4242

To the uninitiated, contemporary American poetry begins and ends with Allen Ginsberg. That's partly the poet professor's fault - in the autumn of his years, he is producing some of his least flaccid work since Howl - but it's also a comfort to cling to an old Beat when all around you is a seething mass of unknown rappers, slammers and street poets talking Tlingit and Tagalog.

Theresa Bergne has twice enabled British audiences to channel-surf in style across the new poetry, touring with some of New York's sharpest performance poets and the midwest's most cattle-crazed cowboy poets last year. For those who missed them, her new showcase, "United States of Poetry Live!", part of the South Bank's Poetry International Festival, promises to map out the sonic territories still further: four poets, spotted on a TV poetry census of the same name, exemplify the continent's diversity.

Former NY cabbie Everton Sylvester is a dub poet with his finger on the pulse of black Brooklyn. Loudmouth Maggie Estep ("I'm an emotional idiot so get away from me") talked her way into supporting Courtney Love on tour. Lois-Ann Yamanaka swears in a combination of Honolulu pidgeon and "classic Hawaiian". The difficult-to-introduce Indran Amirthanayagam, a Sri Lankan in Washington, muses on migration. All this, and clips featuring Jimmy Carter, Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen. What are you waiting for? (7.30pm, Purcell Rm, Mon)

WHAT NOT TO MISS

Which of the other 50 poets appearing at the 10-day event are worth looking in on?

First, make a beeline for an event marking 40 years since the Hungarian Revolution: Edwin Morgan and George Szirtes read translations of some of the country's then leading poets (12pm, Sun Chelsfield Rm).

Hang around afterwards for some powerful verse written during the siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Goran Simic (3pm, Chelsfield Rm).

The Nigerian exile, Nobel-prize winning playwright and poet Wole Soyinka, whose work continues to speak out against oppression, makes a rare appearance (7.30pm, Sun, Purcell Rm).

Most crucially, there's Germany's cultural big gun, Hans Magnus Enzenberger (poet, critic, prof) joined for a session with Poland's leading poet Tadeusz Rozewicz and others (7.30pm, Thurs Purcell Rm).

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Meanwhile Lancastrians can see some of the poets from Poetry International as they zip up to The Lancaster LitFest 96, notably Mark Doty - winner of this year's TS Eliot award, whose beautiful collection My Alexandria meditated on life in the shadow of AIDS; And there's Radio 1's favourite poet Ian McMillan.

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