This year's Ledbury Poetry Festival programme was launched on Friday with almost 10,000 going out to supporters across the UK and abroad.

An army of 15 helpers filled 57 boxes for delivery to the Ledbury sorting office.

The 25-page brochure is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar names and a celebration of the written word, not just in English but in other languages and cultures.

Festival director Dr Charles Bennett said: "We have diversity and a lot of different flavours."

There are 60 mainstream events, slightly fewer than last year, with a strong emphasis on the American achievement to the point where USA events are marked out with the symbol of the Stars and Stripes.

For the first time ever, the festival's poet-in-residence is an American. Mark Doty, who is tipped for the American Laureateship, will not only give a reading but will also be taped for a Radio 4 With Great Pleasure programme. He will also be leading workshops.

Spanish writers Guillermo Car-nero and Juan Antonio Masoliver will offer A Taste of Spain.

In what Dr Bennett called "an absolutely unique event", Palestinian and Israeli poets will reveal their Identity in the Crossfire, on stage together at the manor house of Hellens.

The keynote reading at the start of the festival will be given by Pam Ayres, while Liverpool poet Roger McGough will bring the event to a close.

Between these two household names is a clutch of big guns, including the critic and author Germaine Greer, who will talk about The Boy in English Poetry.

The former arts minister, Lord Grey Gowrie, will talk about his friend, Robert Lowell, one of America's greatest poets.

Jill Balcon, wife of former Poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis, will host a celebration of her husband's life and work at Eastnor Castle.

The free Town Party will have an African theme for the first time, with the top act in the High Street being the female Zulu band, Shikisha.

This year, popular fringe events featuring local performers and attractions have been given a separate page in the programme. High-lights include the Ledbury Scribes, Ledbury Lyricists, Ledbury Embroiderers' Guild and Artistree.

Festival programmes are available now from the Ledbury Tourist Information Centre.