Went to the Ledbury Poetry Festival yesterday - http://www.poetry-festival.com/.
Julie Boden performed music to Steve Troman's piano accompaniment, a project linked with a backstage 'piano room' at Symphony Hall. Very powerful, hypnotic combination of words and music, Julie a skilled poet and performer based at Symphony Hall and whose work's been known for a while now.
Michael Horovitz is from the Beat generation, widely-known (but newer to me, in my ignorance); quite amazing performer, energy and wild vocals with homemade musical accompaniment! Not so sure about the anti-Blair/Bush work, fair points but just not so effective poetry somehow. Glad I got to see him, with a packed room of others.
Benjamin Zephaniah - whose full name includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim names, which as he said sounds great but actually means he gets stopped at every airport in the world! He isn't over-hyped: he just is an enjoyable, natural performer, who has great skill with words, ideas, feelings, politics, and communicates these so well with his audiences. A gentle manner but never bland, some hard-hitting points but not overdone. (For me, his approach to politics worked better than with the Horovitz earlier: Zephaniah can be angry, but goes beyond cliche and brings something new and impressive to the arguments. You know what he's saying, but you still have to think).
He overran by about twenty minutes or so - I didn't care and only 1 person in a packed community hall had to leave early. The rest of us would have stayed all evening if Ben Z had.
The Turkey at Christmas poem was there, one for his mum (her response once? Now shut up and go to bed!), poems about Islamophobia post 9/11, and the moving, angry, intelligent response to the whole shameful mess leading to the non-convictions following the Stephen Lawrence murder trial[s]. Just a selection of the range of his work.
If you have a chance to see any of these performers soon, don't wonder, just go!
Oh, and I was in the local bookshop when Ben Okri was there having a chat with the booksellers/owners. Very amiable man, who elicited suitable approval from the owners when he'd left too. All part of the fun of a festival.
And one of the other main poets sat next to me at the Michael Horovitz reading. I didn't ask for an autograph though.