Literature: Thinking out loud

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Long before he began suffering from mild-degree fame by appearing on BBC2's This Morning with Richard Not Judy as the smug vicar, the comedian Kevin Eldon was employing his talent for sanctimonious smiles to great effect. For several years on the Edinburgh Fringe, he subjected audiences to the rantings of a spoof performance poet. Here are lines from "Acceptance":

"Hirsute lesbian; I love you/ Tamil guerilla; I salute you/ Disabled innuit; I embrace you/ Come you all to my home/ I have muffins."

Maybe it doesn't work so well on the page, but that would only reinforce its satirical edge. The world of performance poetry has long been the object of scorn and derision - but the poets may yet have the last laugh. Although there are still versemongers out there bursting with nothing to say, the wheat is beginning to outstrip the chaff.

This week's Litpop festival - tied in with Channel 4's promos of the same name - provides a good opportunity to sample some of the best acts in town in a decent venue, the 100 Club. Day one (Tue) boasts Irish Indian rapper JC001, the fastest human beatbox in the West; the Benjamin Zephaniah- rated Adisa; black polyvocal duo Mannafest; and broadsheet coverboy Murray Lachlan Young (far right). There's also surreal Hawaiian hula-whooping from Stacy Makishi and experimental sonics from the accomplished Atomic Lip, "poetry's first pop group".

On Wednesday, things take a turn for the theatrical, with highlights including choreopoems from dancer Jonzi D, monologues from Valerie Mason John, who was behind the recent fringe hit Sin Dykes, and dub-jester Pink Sly.

Thursday is the real corker, where younger and older generations meet: poet-u-like John Hegley; Adrian Mitchell, agitprop surrealist; the equally zany founding father of UK performance poetry, Michael Horovitz; African anarchist Akure Wall; plus the head-spinning king of high-velocity philoso- rap, Jarvis Cocker on speed in an asylum, MC Jabber.

And if you've got a hole in your diary on Monday, it's worth checking out one of London's oldest performance clubs, the Hard Edge, offering sets from the scabrously cerebral Tim Turnbull and lyrical avant-gardist Niall McDevitt - ne-er-do-wells who make exceedingly good verse.

Hard Edge: The Crown and Sceptre, Great Titchfield Street, W1 (0171- 923 1083) 23 Mar 8.30pm, pounds 2.50; Litpop: 100 Club, Oxford Street, W1 (info: 0181-691 0531) 24-26 Mar, 8pm, pounds 6/pounds 4

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