WITH VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY IN MOSCOW!

WITH VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY IN MOSCOW!

22.12.14

TREES DON’T HURT ME




Trees don’t hurt me,
unless cut into batons.
In so cost conscious a countryside,
they afford me rest.
So cool, so upright, their dignity
binds me to the tranquil forest.
They assert an uncomputerised grain
which feeds my spirit’s hunger.
Trees offer shelter to my painful moods,
calm my tempers and fierce dreams.
We must learn respect for trees,
they can teach us to breathe,
to  sway naturally,
to leave space in poems

for silence.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

19.12.14

SHIELDS DAYS


NORTH TYNESIDE STEAM IN NEWS GUARDIAN


14.12.14

DURHAM/KOSTROMA POETRY EXCHANGE


























I'm currently taking part in a poetry exchange with Durham's twin city Kostroma in Russia with the support of Durham County Council's International Relations Office. In January, I'll be discussing my poetry in a live video exchange with the Russian twin. Kostroma is one of the oldest Russian cities. It is located 330 km to the North East of Moscow on the confluence of the Volga and Kostroma rivers. Its population is c270,000.





TWIN THE WEAR WITH THE VOLGA



Twin the Wear with the Volga,
let salmon jump in Red Square.
Join in a Durham Revolution,
let a peaceful breeze blow here.

There’s this comrade in the Market Tavern,
looks like Nikita Khrushchev.
There’s a Moscow moon on top of his head,
his face is all ruddy and red.
Back in Russia, 
there’s a border reiver,
a wild vodka look in his eye,
he’s riding a horse like a cossack
from Kostroma to Crook Town and back.

Reach across water me darling,
it’s worth it.
Spread out your nets and your arms.
You might get a hot Russian lover
and Igor a sweet Wearside lass. 

So twin the Wear with the Volga,
let salmon jump in Red Square.
Join in a Durham Revolution,
let a peaceful breeze blow here.

There’s this strapping lad in the Kremlin,
he’s from an Easington back lane.
He’s wearing old Lenin’s disused fur hat,
there’s a Marxist tattoo on his chest.
Back in Durham,
there’s a soviet cosmonaut,
with a fishing rod in his hand,
he’s trying for a catch in the gathering dusk
as the river slides from yellow to black.  

Share a strong jar with me sweetheart, 
it’s warm now.
Hold the smile on your face.
You can sail light on the Baltic
and fly to the Urals with me.   

So twin the Wear with the Volga,
let salmon jump in Red Square.
Join in a Durham Revolution,
let a peaceful breeze blow here.



KEITH ARMSTRONG




13.12.14

MAUD WATSON, FLORIST




































bred in a market arch 
a struggle
in a city's armpit

that flower
in your time-rough hands 
a beautiful girl in a slum alley

all that kindness in your face

and you're right

the times are not what they were
this England's not what it was

flowers shrink in that crumbling vase
dusk creeps in on a cart

and Maud the sun is choking 

Maud this island's sinking 

and all that swollen sea is 

the silent majority 

waving




Keith Armstrong

9.12.14

FOR 'CUNY' - JOHN CUNNINGHAM PASTORAL POET 1729-1773









































FOR 'CUNY'



‘Search where Ambition rag'd, with rigour steel'd;
Where Slaughter, like the rapid lightning, ran;
And say, while mem'ry weeps the blood-stain'd field,
Where lies the chief, and where the common man?’

(John Cunningham)

‘Unto thy dust, sweet Bard! adieu!
Thy hallow'd shrine I slowly leave;
Yet oft, at eve, shall Mem'ry view
The sun-beam ling'ring on thy grave.’

(David Carey)

This week an elegant tombstone, executed by Mr. Drummond of this town, was set up in St. John's church-yard to the memory of the late ingenious Mr. John Cunningham. The following is the inscription thereon:

‘Here lie the Remains of JOHN CUNNINGHAM.
Of his Excellence as a Pastoral Poet,
His Works will remain a Monument
For Ages
After this temporary Tribute of Esteem
Is in Dust forgotten.
He died in Newcastle, Sept 18, 1773,
Aged 44.’

The ritual slaughter
of traffic,
hurling itself
against the furious economy,
the commerce of suffering,
the pain of money,
nudges your bones
in this graveyard of hollow words.
I hear you liked a jar
well, here’s me 
sprinkling
your precious monument 
with a little local wine,
lubricating the flowers
that burst from your pastoral verses.

You toured the boards like me,
torn like me,
with your heart,
terrific heart,
pouring real blood on your travelling sleeve.
Oh, my God!
your lips trembled
with a delicate love
for the fleeting joy,
the melancholic haze,
the love in a mist,
that Tom Bewick sketched in you
amd Mrs Slack fed
as you passed along 
this way and that
despair in your eyes.
The fact was
you were not born
for the rat race
of letters,
the ducking and fawning
for tasteless prizes,
the empty bloated rivalry,
the thrust of their bearded egos.
You wanted wonder,
the precise touch
of the sun on your grave,
the delicious kiss
that never comes back.
I’m with you, ‘Cuny’
in this Newcastle Company of Comedians;
I’m in your clouds of drunken ways;
I twitch with you
in my poetic nervousness
along Westgate Road.
And the girls left their petals for you
like I hope they do for me
in the light of the silver moon,
thinking of your pen 
scratching stars into the dark sky.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Doctor Keith Armstrong now resides in the seaside town of Whitley Bay. He has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise and was founder of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East, Tyneside Poets  and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series.
He recently compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners’ Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham, the market town of Hexham and the heritage of North Tyneside. He has been a self employed writer since 1986 and he was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on regional culture in the North East of England. His biography of Jack Common was published by the University of Sunderland Press in 2009. 
He was Year of the Artist 2000 poet-in-residence at Hexham Races, working with artist Kathleen Sisterson. He has also written for music-theatre productions, including ‘Fire & Brimstone’ (on painter John Martin), 1989, and ‘The Hexham Celebration’, 1992, both for the Hexham Abbey Festival. He appeared again at the Hexham Abbey Festival in 2008 reciting the poetry of Hexham poet Wilfrid Gibson.
His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman, Poetry Review, Dream Catcher, and Other Poetry,  as well as in the collections The Jingling Geordie, Dreaming North, Pains of Class, Imagined Corners, Splinters (2011) and The Month of the Asparagus (2011), on cassette, LP & CD, and on radio & TV.  He has performed his poetry on several occasions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at Festivals in Aberdeen, Bradford, Cardiff, Cheltenham (twice at the Festival of Literature - with Liz Lochhead and with 'Sounds North'), Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Greenwich, Lancaster, and throughout Britain. 
In his youth, he travelled to Paris to seek out the grave of poet Charles Baudelaire and he has been making cultural pilgrimages abroad ever since. He has toured to Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, Iceland (including readings during the Cod War), Denmark, France, Germany (including readings at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel, Oldenburg, Trier and Tuebingen), Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Cuba, Jamaica and Kenya.
He has read several times in Limerick and in Cork, Dublin, Kinvara, Fermoy and Galway. His irish adventures have inspired him to write a sequence of poems based on the places he has visited and the people he has met. With Dominic Taylor, he co-edited the anthology ‘Two Rivers Meet, poetry from the Shannon and the Tyne’ which was published by Revival Press as part of the exchange between Limerick and Keith’s home city.


'In another part of the field, another field, let's
face it, sits Keith Armstrong's rakish gaff. (His)
poems are rooted in the Tyneside music hall tradition,
closely behind which was the august balladry of the
Borders. His is an unashamed bardic stance, actor
rather than commentator. His politics are personal.
Throughout the collection the authentic lyrical note
of this northern poet is struck.'  (Michael Standen,
Other Poetry).

6.12.14

ELVET BRIDGE


























(inspired by Guillaume Apollinaire)


Under Elvet Bridge the rain
flows with our loves.
Must I recall again?
Joy always used to follow after pain.

The days pass, the weeks pass
all in vain.
Neither time spent nor misspent
nor love comes back again.

Under Elvet Bridge the rain
flows with our loves.
Must I recall again?
Joy always used to follow after rain.




Keith Armstrong







Durham photos by Peter Dixon

3.12.14

UNDER THE TREE: A LULLABY IN STORMY TIMES




























(in memory of Ottilie Wildermuth, 1817-1877)

In the ‘Seufzerwäldchen’ (Small Forest of Sighs), at the end of the avenue, is the memorial for the writer Ottilie Wildermuth, the only memorial in Tübingen dedicated to a woman.
Even if thunder rolls,
lightning quivers,
may my little child
fall quietly asleep......
May the little bell sound for me
a quiet peal of funeral bells
when I lay to rest
my brief happiness.
Under the tree,
reading Theory of Colours.
Under the tree,
the light in her hair.
Under the tree,
the birds bathe in dust.
Under the tree,
Otto is breathing.
Under the tree,
the bells in the sun.
Under the tree,
her eyes flash at me.
Under the tree,
her young hips sway.
Under the tree,
sipping days.
Under the tree,
news is poor.
Under the tree,
there is wine.
Under the tree,
no bullets.
Under the tree,
my heart singing.
Under the tree,
Tuebingen lives.
Under the tree,
Tuebingen groans.
Under the tree,
I see for miles.
Under the tree,
I float on the clouds.
Under the tree,
blackbird’s throbbing.
Under the tree,
love life.
Under the tree,
this poem.
Under the tree,
I can sigh.
Under the tree,
feel a moment.
Under the tree,
beauty.
Under the tree,
sense the pity.
Under the tree,
touch this city.
Under the tree,
find distance.
Under the tree,
miles away.
Under the tree,
thinking of you.
Under the tree,
learning Goethe.
Under the tree,
drenched in years.
Under the tree,
drunk
forever.
KEITH ARMSTRONG,
Tuebingen

the jingling geordie

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whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur