Poetry: Manchester Poetry Festival - A town swathed in poetry

Indulge the media whimsy that poetry is "the new rock n roll", and Ric Michael, an organiser of the 1997 Manchester Poetry Festival, brings you up short. "I've run a club for years and I can tell you it's not," avers the one-time rock promoter and manager of The Roadhouse club. "Poets don't get half-empty cans of beer thrown on them, for a start."

Nevertheless the festival, now in its fourth year, is continuing in its mission to spread the words [sic] beyond fusty libraries and draughty church halls. Its founder, Henry Normal, is perhaps better known for writing much of Steve Coogan's material but the festival's "up for it" attitude is evidence of its determination to bring comedy's broad appeal to poetry. "Don't expect anything like Cheltenham or Hay", Michael laughs, referring to the genteel refinement of these more rusticated literary jamborees. "This is an urban festival and will be relevant for anyone living in a city."

Convinced that too many of us still think of poets as tubercular students scribbling in freezing garrets, Michael has arranged a series of free readings in the newly refurbished Cornerhouse Bar. "The idea is to catch punters having a drink on the way home from work and maybe hook them for the events later in the evening." The bait between 5.30 and 6.30 every evening (except Saturday) will be up-and-coming performers such as Fiona Bowker and Rosie Lugosi, whose attempts to haul poetry's image into the 90s with "post-prudent poetry for the post prozac population", the organisers hope will be more illuminating than the fruit machine.

Elsewhere, festival highlights include the delicious prospect of "the million pound poet" Murray Lachlan Young on the same bill as his literary antithesis Hovis Presley, as well as the reliable heavyweight presence of Wendy Cope and Craig Raine. Whether it's in Dillon's bookstore, the Hop and Grape of the Manchester Student Union or the Odyssey Club, Michael is bringing poetry to Manchester "for anyone and everyone. I want this town swathed in poetry."

To Nov 16, various venues. Information: 0161 907 0031

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