Preview: Poetry International, South Bank Centre, London

Music, rap, a boy band and some poems
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The Independent Culture

Poetry International, founded by Ted Hughes in the Sixties, is the UK's biggest poetry festival - and some great poets are heading to the South Bank for the 2006 event. Adrian Mitchell will read new poems inspired by Bertolt Brecht (a festival commission), while Simon Armitage reads from his new collection Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid. The Irish poet Paul Muldoon is to read from his new collection, Horse Latitudes.

The 2006 poet-in-residence is Lemn Sissay. Every day, one of his poems will be projected on to the outside of the Festival Hall, including the poem "Perfect" - "You are so perfect/ Traffic lights time themselves days before you arrive/ So your stride won't be broken and the cars can rest/ And the world can stop..."

Sissay will debate the topic "Is Performance Poetry Dead?" with the stand-up poet Luke Wright of the poetry boy-band Aisle16. "There is no such thing as performance poetry. The act of writing a poem is done alone and with a pen, and every poet reads on stage," Sissay says. "Performance poetry assumes that the performance is more important than the poem."

Born in the UK of Ethiopian descent, Sissay was adopted by a white family who later rejected him. After he turned 18, he began a search to find his real family: "I had found all the family by the age of 33."

Despite his "vicious childhood", his poems about race, family and love are not a form of therapy. "I always wrote to discover the world, not escape from it," he says. He has written four collections of poetry; his first, Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist (1988), was published when he was 21. He's written stage plays and made poems into landmarks; in Manchester, they appear on buildings and streets.

Other highlights include the London premiere of Kwame Dawes's Wisteria: Twilight Songs from the Swamp Country, a set of poems with a live musical score composed by Kevin Simmonds and played by an 11-piece ensemble from South Carolina. Arapiat are an Israeli-Arab female rap duo, whose lyrics blend social issues and attitudes.

24-29 October ( www.rfh.org.uk/poetryinternational)

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