Paul McCartney has condemned John Lennon's killer as "the jerk of all jerks" as he burst into verse to honour the fellow Beatle he created so much magic with.

Laying his heart on his sleeve in his new role as a poet, McCartney was fulsome in his praise of Lennon, gunned down outside his New York apartment by Mark Chapman in 1980.

Performing his poems at Britain's leading literary festival in the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, McCartney fondly recalled his first meeting with Lennon: "He smelt of beer."

He then adopted Chapman's voice for the poem: "I'm the guy with the pistol who kills your best friend. You can't really blame me because I'm round the bend."

McCartney's first volume of poetry - Blackbird Singing - has sold more than 55,000 copies in Britain and the United States. Now it is being translated into Japanese, French, Italian, German and Spanish.

He won a standing ovation from 1300 poetic Beatlemania fans as he read his verses - and even tried a cheeky dose of audience participation in what became a sweltering hot marquee.

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