BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN SEPTEMBER! LIMERICK IN OCTOBER!

BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN SEPTEMBER! LIMERICK IN OCTOBER!

23.7.16

TUEBINGEN (AND A TRACE OF COFFEE)




Tuebingen (and a trace of coffee)
invades the edges of my agitated tongue
as I glide through the empty stools
of the moments gone
and the sensational waitress
picks at the tips
of those forgotten days,
the wasted breath
of political song.
I have lost something
that poems can’t define:
the warmth of my mother’s smile in the shivering moonlight,
the love of a lifetime
and the ways my young feet
ran along in the summer breezes.
But my friends (those who stand by me) I tell you
I shall rise,
I shall rise again at Newcastle Airport
and greet the runways of Europe
with kisses fresh
with longing
for the ache of adventure,
an air hostess’s hand in mine
as I cling to the sunshine in her eyes
and the golden memories
return
to force me to laugh again.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

21.7.16

WE CHANGE AT LIMERICK JUNCTION































We change at Limerick Junction.
Rain knocks the smiles off our faces,
the sun glows and exposes the dust in the faint traces of our poems.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Weather makes our eyes fade,
the hours grow tired of breathing in the pain of the world.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Hearts thunder along the crazy rails,
the weight off our feet lands with a thump on the daily platform.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Carry gifts for old friends,
the urge to go on trailing poetry along the lines.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Girls get too young for us,
the flesh weakens with the passage of whiskey.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Air races in the manes of horses,
the money drains from our exhausted pockets.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Jump from one train to another,
the inexhaustible desire to write a better verse.
We change at Limerick Junction.
Words are why we laugh,
beauty is what makes us want to live.
We change at Limerick Junction.



 


KEITH ARMSTRONG

19.7.16

SPLINTERS
























 



 

(FOR MY FATHER)

You picked splinters
with a pin each day
from under blackened fingernails;
shreds of metal
from the shipyard grime,
minute memories of days swept by:
the dusty remnants of a life
spent in the shadow of the sea;
the tears in your shattered eyes
at the end of work.
And your hands were strong,
so sensitive and capable 
of building boats
and nursing roses;
a kind and gentle man
who never hurt a soul,
the sort of quiet knackered man
who built a nation.
Dad, I watched your ashes float away
down to the ocean bed
and in each splinter
I saw your caring eyes
and gracious smile.

I think of your strong silence every day
and I am full of you,
the waves you scaled,
and all the sleeping Tyneside streets
you taught me to dance my fleeting feet along.

When I fly, you are with me.
I see your fine face
in sun-kissed clouds
and in the gold ring on my finger,
and in the heaving crowd on Saturday,
and in the lung of Grainger Market,
and in the ancient breath
of our own Newcastle.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

'This is one of the poems I'll never forget. I see the struggling of my own dad in your words. 
Thanks for your fine poem.' (Klaas Drenth) 

Beautiful poem. Loving, moving memories. Most excellent Keith.’ (Strider Marcus Jones)

'Love the poem Keith. That’s my dad.’ (John McMahon)

Annie Sheridan 'Beautifully visual Keith ,nice to share your memories.' x

Imelda Walsh 'Lovely poem, loving memories too.'

Kenny Jobson 'So, so good, Keith - I'll share this, if you don't mind.'

14.7.16

AND PIGS MIGHT FLY






























(for Helmut Bügl)


On this evening flight,
necks stuck out,
we dart in formation
to a Stuttgart dream.
Complete strangers,
we share a common French wine
to celebrate clouds.
With your rough words,
you ask me what I do.
“Write poetry”, I say,
and sign away a verse or two for you,
hovering in mid-air, between snow and sun.
“And you?” “I breed pigs I do”,
flying home from a swine seminar in Montreal.
To prove it, you sign me a photo of six of your litter,
the Swabian breed of Helmut Bugl.
It’s a flying cultural exchange,
a rhyme for a slice of time.
The stars are sizzling in the thrilling sky
and, tonight, pigs might fly.
Tonight, pigs might fly.





Keith Armstrong

13.7.16

TREVOR




This is a special man
who spends his life entirely
searching for clues to all of it
outside the teeming box.
He rants from the obscure corners
where no one else dares,
rummages down lanes
where most folk fear
to walk,
looking for a special meaning,
a hint of a jewel
in the pervasive rubbish.
A walk with him
will lead you
into beautiful gardens,
alternative libraries
and abstract galleries.
His voice
is his own
unique instrument,
dulcit in the sun
of blooming vineyards
and birdsong.
His thoughts
refresh
the universe
with their original
melodies.
Listen to him,
to the deepness
in his soul,
to the reverence
in his wise and seaching eyes.





KEITH ARMSTRONG



9.7.16

FOR OSCAR




The Government has captured the public's imagination,
jailed it,
court martialled it, hung, drawn and quartered it.

Still, we will rise,
larklike,
in the tunes of our youth.

We will sing,
spring
Oscar
from prison
again.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

7.7.16

COD WAR!


1.7.16

A PRAYER FOR THE LONERS
























 






The dejected men,
the lone voices,
slip away
in this seaside rain.
Their words shudder to a standstill
in dismal corners.
Frightened to shout, 
they cower
behind quivering faces.
No one listens
to their memories crying.
There seems no point
in this democratic deficit.
For years, they just shuffle along,
hopeless
in their financial innocence.
They do have names
that no lovers pronounce.
They flit between stools,
miss out on gales of laughter.
Who cares for them?
Nobody in Whitley Bay
or canny Shields,
that’s for sure.
These wayside fellows
might as well be in a saddos’ heaven
for all it matters
in the grey world’s backwaters.
Life has bruised them,
dashed them.
Bones flake into the night.
I feel like handing them all loud hailers
to release  
their oppressed passion,
to move them
to scream 
red murder at their leaders -
those they never voted for;
those who think they’re something,
some thing special,
grand.
For, in the end,
I am on the side of these stooped lamenters,
the lonely old boys with a grievance
about caring 
and the uncaring;
about power,
and how switched off
this government is
from the isolated,
from the agitated,
from the trembling,
the disenfranchised 
drinkers of sadness.

KEITH ARMSTRONG
Kenny Jobson absolutely excellent

Davide Trame This is a great, powerful poem

Libby Wattis Brilliant poem x

Gracie Gray Very evocative Keith. x


Sue Hubbard Very strong


David Henry Fantastic! A powerful and very moving poem 

Strider Marcus Jones A great poem full of so many truths.

Dominic Windram Great stuff Keith... always a vociferous voice for the voiceless! 

Siobhan Coogan Beautiful Keith you give a voice to the lonely

25.6.16

ON THE SCROUNGE IN THE EURO LOUNGE


 






























(for Mick Standen)

Here in this dreadful Belgian Pub,
we’re drinking
piss poor booze.
And the Belgian barmaid’s Belgian Breasts
reach out
for the Dutch Frontier.

Brussels Airport
plastic sprouts
games amongst it all.
Gates and terminals,
dates and walls,
the Business God grins on.

Abroad, in all this shameless wealth,
there’s a deeply shallow stench.
And we poets
drift
in one Stella stream
of rootless alienation.

Yes, it’s us again
declaiming verse
to all the whoring Nations.
Declaring love poems to the skies,
our words are caught
in flight. 

Because we’re on the scrounge
in the Euro Lounge.
We’re just gagging for a quid.
We’re upside down in a screwed-up world,
hanging
on these very words.

Yes, we’re on the scrounge
in the Euro Lounge.
We’re searching for the Lost and Found.
Two old romantics
in a place called ‘Frantic’,
last terminal of dead dreams.

On the scrounge
in the Euro Lounge,
among the jewels and fancy gowns.
We’re dancing over the business types,
we’re tripping
over Stars and Stripes.

Yes, we’re poets on the scrounge
in the Euro Lounge,
with only our poems to lose.
Just cadging grants to fund our rants
and red wine to ease
the pain.                                                                                                          


KEITH ARMSTRONG

9.6.16

THOMAS SPENCE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION


THOMAS SPENCE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION:

TUESDAY 21ST JUNE 12PM NOON AT THE THOMAS SPENCE PLAQUE, BROAD GARTH, QUAYSIDE, NEWCASTLE:
PERFORMANCES OF SPECIALLY COMPOSED SPENCE POEMS AND SONGS BY LOCAL POETS AND MUSICIANS, WITH A NEW SONG IN HONOUR OF SPENCE BY FOLK DUO 'THE SAWDUST JACKS'.
INTRODUCED BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG OF 'THE THOMAS SPENCE TRUST'.

A FILM WILL BE MADE OF THE POETRY AND MUSIC.

FOLLOWED BY DRINKS IN THE CELLAR BACK ROOM, THE RED HOUSE PUB, SANDHILL, NEWCASTLE FROM 12.30PM WITH INFORMAL READINGS AND SONGS IN HONOUR OF SPENCE'S BIRTHDAY - AND, INCIDENTALLY, THAT OF KEITH ARMSTRONG!
FURTHER INFORMATION: TELEPHONE 0191 2529531.


ORGANISED BY THE THOMAS SPENCE TRUST

93 Woodburn Square, Whitley Lodge, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE26 3JD
Tel. 0191 2529531                                                                            

 
It’s good to welcome the establishment of The Thomas Spence Trust, founded by a group of Tyneside activists intent on celebrating and promoting the life and work of that noted pioneer of people’s rights, pamphleteer and poet Thomas Spence (1750-1814), who was born on Newcastle’s Quayside in those turbulent times.
Spence served in his father’s netmaking trade from the age of ten but went on later to be a teacher at Haydon Bridge Free Grammar School and at St. Ann’s Church in Byker under the City Corporation. In 1775, he read his famous lecture on the right to property in land to the Newcastle Philosophical Society, who voted his expulsion at their next meeting.
He claimed to have invented the phrase ‘The Rights of Man’ and chalked it in the caves at Marsden Rocks in South Shields in honour of the working class hero ‘Blaster Jack’ Bates,  who lived there.
He even came to blows with famed Tyneside wood engraver Thomas Bewick (to whom a memorial has been recently established on the streets of Newcastle) over a political issue, and was thrashed with cudgels for his trouble.
From 1792, having moved to London, he took part in radical agitations, particularly against the war with France. He was arrested several times for selling his own and other seditious books and was imprisoned for six months without trial in 1794, and sentenced to three years for his Restorer of Society to its Natural State in 1801.
Whilst politicians such as Edmund Burke saw the mass of people as the ‘Swinish Multitude’, Spence saw creative potential in everybody and broadcast his ideas in the periodical Pigs’ Meat.
He had a stall in London’s Chancery Lane, where he sold books and saloup, and later set up a small shop called The Hive of Liberty in Holborn.
He died in poverty ‘leaving nothing to his friends but an injunction to promote his Plan and the remembrance of his inflexible integrity’.
The Thomas Spence Trust organised a mini-festival to celebrate Spence in 2000 when it published a booklet on his life and work, together with related events, with the aid of Awards for All.
Trust founder member, poet Keith Armstrong has written a play for Bruvvers Theatre Company on the socialist pioneer which has been performed at St. Ann’s Church and other venues in the city.

Now the Trust has successfully campaigned for a plaque on the Quayside in Newcastle, where Spence was born. The plaque was unveiled on Monday June 21st 2010, Spence's 260th birthday, with a number of talks, displays and events coinciding with it.

A book 'Thomas Spence: The Poor Man's Revolutionary', edited by Alastair Bonnett and Keith Armstrong, was published by Breviary Stuff Publications, with launch events, in 2014, the 200th anniversary of Spence's death.


Further information from: The Thomas Spence Trust, 93 Woodburn Square, Whitley Lodge, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE26 3JD. Tel. 0191 2529531.


SPEECH BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG AT THE UNVEILING OF  THE SPENCE PLAQUE IN 2010:

On behalf of The Thomas Spence Trust and Newcastle City Council, I’m delighted to welcome you here today to unveil a plaque in honour of that great free spirit, utopian writer, land reformer and courageous pioneering campaigner for the rights of men and women, Thomas Spence. Myself and other members of our Trust, especially Peter Dixon and Tony Whittle, with the support of people like Professors Joan Beal, Alastair Bonnett and Malcolm Chase and activists like Michael Mould, Alan Myers and Councillor Nigel Todd, have campaigned for well over 10 years for some kind of memorial to Tom Spence and it is with great pride that we assemble here with you today.
We know that Spence was born on the Quayside on June 21st 1750, 260 years ago to this the longest day and Summer Solstice. We know that his father Jeremiah made fishing nets and sold hardware from a booth on Sandhill and his mother Margaret kept a stocking stall, also on Sandhill, but it has not been possible, all these years on, to pinpoint the exact location of Thomas Spence’s birthplace, which is why this plaque has been installed here at Broad Garth, the site of his school room and debating society and where he actually came to blows with Thomas Bewick because of a dispute over the contentious matter of property. Bewick gave Spence a beating with cudgels on that occasion but, surprisingly enough, they remained lifelong friends. As Bewick said of Spence: ‘He was one of the warmest Philanthropists in the world and the happiness of Mankind seemed, with him, to absorb every other consideration.’
In these days of bland career politicians, Spence stands out as an example of a free spirit, prepared to go to prison for his principles - the principles of grass roots freedom, community and democracy, for the human rights of people all over the world.
Spence mobilised politically in taverns in Newcastle and later in London. That is why this afternoon, after this short ceremony, you are all invited to join us across the road in the Red House to raise a glass for Tom and to hear informal talks, poems and songs in his honour. You can hear further talks on Spence tonight at the Lit & Phil, courtesy of the Workers’ Educational Association, and next Monday at Newcastle Library, along with a display of his works, and, if you like, you can join some of us at Marsden Grotto, South Shields, tomorrow lunchtime, where Thomas first chalked the phrase ‘The Rights of Man’ on a cave wall, to raise another glass for this man who in his own words ‘dared to be free.’
This plaque puts Thomas Spence on the map for all of those pilgrims who hold human rights and political freedoms dear. It does not trap his free spirit rather it gives his life and work fresh wings.
Thanks to you all for coming this afternon on this proud day for The Thomas Spence Trust, Newcastle City Council and the citizens of this great city of ours.

FOLK SONG FOR THOMAS SPENCE

(1750-1814)


Down by the old Quayside,
I heard a young man cry,
among the nets and ships he made his way.
As the keelboats buzzed along,
he sang a seagull’s song;
he cried out for the Rights of you and me.

Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.

Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.

His folks they both were Scots,
sold socks and fishing nets,
through the Fog on the Tyne they plied their trade.
In this theatre of life,
the crying and the strife,
they tried to be decent and be strong.

Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.

Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.


KEITH ARMSTRONG




(from the music-theatre piece ‘Pig’s Meat’ written for Bruvvers Theatre Company)

6.6.16

POETRY & JAZZ




PRESS RELEASE

THE POETRY OF JAZZ  

Tyneside artists and jazz enthusiasts Keith Armstrong and Peter Dixon have created a display of colour paintings, images and poems celebrating the greats of the jazz world from Lous Armstrong to George Melly, Billie Holiday to Charles Mingus and many more. The exhibition can be viewed at JG Windows in Newcastle's Central Arcade in the Printed Music Department on first floor of the store for the immediate future.

Contact - Keith Armstrong tel 0191 2529531 or Rupert Bradbury (JG Windows) tel 0191 2321356 for further information.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Doctor Keith Armstrong now resides in Whitley Bay. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise.
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 culture in the North East of England. 
His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman and Poetry Review as well as in the collections Splinters (2011) and The Month of the Asparagus (2011) and broadcast on radio & TV.
He has performed his poetry throughout Britain and abroad. 
In his youth, he travelled to Paris and he has been making international cultural pilgrimages ever since.



PETER DIXON

North Shields based artist, photographer and graphic designer Peter Dixon began his working life as a designer at the Shields Gazette, later becoming Senior Visualiser at the North East Co-op. He has worked in several advertising agencies and runs his own design company.
In 2012 he had a major exhibition of paintings and photographs, entitled The River and the Slake, displayed at Bede’s World, Jarrow. 
He has produced and co-written many publications and exhibitions for Northern Voices Community Projects.



MELLY

Something sad about clowns;
something thin between laughter and tears.
Pity the dignity, the love and the hate,
the twitching wire between body and soul 
and you on that stage,
drunk on rum and borrowed blues again;
unique in the balance you keep to yourself -
never quite losing it,
never quite making it;
bawling out between Magritte and Morton,
playing the droopy-drawered clown
with yourself,
you

do the Melly Belly,
the Ovaltine,
big brash belly laugh blues.



Keith Armstrong




2.6.16

GRONINGEN/NEWCASTLE LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING




 








































Keith Armstrong first visited Groningen in 1992 with poet Julia Darling to set the ball rolling. Since then there have been readings in pubs, universities, libraries, and schools and at breakfast parties, festivals, cabaret clubs and civic centres in both cities.

Successful events were held in Newcastle in October 2007 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the literary twinning between the respective cities, including a poetry and music evening at the Bridge Hotel and a reception with the City's Lord Mayor.
The then Groningen City Poet Rense Sinkgraven took part, along with fellow Groningen poet Willem Groenewegen, and Nick J. Swarth (City Poet of Tilburg) added colour to the celebrations.
The poets were joined by twinning pioneers Professor Helen Wilcox and jazz performer Allan Wilcox (on double bass and piano) and Groningen Cultural Officer Marieke Zwaving.
Keith Armstrong led the team of Newcastle performers with fellow poets Paul Summers, Poetry Jack, Catherine Graham, Ian Horn and Mick Standen.

A Groningen delegation made up of poets, publishers, journalists and cultural officers and headed by Councillor for Culture Jaap Dijkstra visited Newcastle in September 2008 and a special performance evening was held at the Ouseburn Boathouse with readings by the Groningen poets and their Newcastle counterparts incuding Keith Armstrong, Paul Summers and Ellen Phethean.

Groningen City Poet Stefan Nieuwenhuis jetted in September 2011 to join Newcastle poet Keith Armstrong at a launch of Keith's new books.
After which, Armstrong and folk musician Gary Miller appeared again in schools and cafes in Newcastle's twin city of Groningen at the end of September following on from successful appearances in 2010 where they presented their unique poems and songs in the International School, Haren Library (with a specially commissioned performance for Haren's 850th anniversary and a recital of the poems of Charles Dickens) and O'Ceallaigh's Irish Bar. During the September stay, Armstrong performed his sequence of Groningen poems, written after many visits to the city, with some settings by Miller.

The links between Groningen and Newcastle continue with Keith Armstrong planning another visit to Groningen in 2016-17.

For the record, here's a list of those artists who have made it happen so far:

Groningen literary/cultural visitors to Newcastle since 1992:

Rense Sinkgraven, Marieke Zwaving, Jaap Dijkstra, Tine Bethlehem, Albertina Soepboer, Tsead Bruinja, The Poets from Epibreren (Bart FM Droog, Tjitse Hofmann, Paul Jainandun Singh, Jan Klug), Sieger M. Geertsma, Ronald Ohlsen, Anneke Claus, Willem Groenewegen, Anton Scheepstra, Eric Nederkoorn, Herman Sandman, Emiel Matulewicz, Jeroen Engels, Entre'acte jazz duo (Allan Wilcox, Sina Keuning), Janny Boerma, Helen Wilcox, Henk Muda, Klaas Drenth, Emmeke Schurink-Plas, Willem Smit.

Newcastle visitors to Groningen since 1992:

Keith Armstrong, Julia Darling, The Poetry Virgins, Paul Summers, Ian Horn, Tony Whittle (photographer/musician), Ann Sessoms (Northumbrian Piper), Chris Ormston (Northumbrian Piper), Chris Hartnett (singer/songwriter), John Earl, Alan Clark (Nod), Dave Gaston, Michael Standen, Marie Little (singer), Gary Miller (singer/songwriter).


FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS, TEL. 0191 2529531.





31.5.16

WHIRRING OVER THE MOON FIELD















WHIRRING OVER THE MOON FIELD


On a Monday,
with fruity schnapps
boring away in my gut,
I scraped along,
through a bloodstained subway,
into a grizzly Tübingen play.
Through this fine mist,
the blessed slugs slid
in the park of
lovers and drifters;
with the clap of a scream,
the hungover day
came dawning
into our lives.
The stretch of Wilhelmstrasse
poked out my eye,
my tongue slurped around
in my brain,
looking for verse
to drown the old pain
in the mouth
of a beautiful
waitress.
‘Kiss me out of my misery,’
I breathed in her delicate ear;
she gave me a flash
of  a Swabian smile,
a hint of Wurttemberg lace.
I stared at her eyes the whole morning,
alone by the cafe door;
I injected my coffee with whisky
as crazy clouds winked
through dark blinds.
‘Eines Tages als die Gurke sirrend über das Mondfeld haspelte.’
(‘One day when the cucumber reeled whirring over the moon field.’):
I had had too much to think,
needed the touch
of a swallow in sunlight;
the love of a sky blue hostess
on the wings
of this wasted day.





KEITH ARMSTRONG
















Street Art on Wilhelmstrasse, Tübingen on a wall which separates Osiander Bookshop (no 12) from Cafe Schöne Aussichten (no 16) 

the jingling geordie

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