I'LL BE APPEARING AT THE TUEBINGEN BOOK FESTIVAL IN MAY

I'LL BE APPEARING AT THE TUEBINGEN BOOK FESTIVAL IN MAY

17.4.15

MAD MARTINS UPDATE



Thanks to the amazing Garry Boyle for doing such a fantastic job of mastering the 50-track triple album Mad Martins (my epic recording project of the last 2 years). Producer Iain Petrie and myself had a wonderful time during the last 3 days hearing it all come together at Garry's amazing Slate Room Studio in Pentcaitland. We're all very excited with the results and can't wait for people to hear it in all its 2 hours and 20 minutes glory! The triple album has been a labour of love for all concerned and features contributions from many close personal friends including Whisky Priests alumni Glenn Miller and Mick Tyas in key roles, as well as the irrepressible Keith Armstrong whose delivery on all the spoken word pieces along with his poetry contributions is stunning. Best wishes, Gary Miller

FRIENDS OF THE GRAVES (for the Birtley Belgians)






















‘Never forget that you are a Birtley Belgian.’
(Ida ‘Anderland’ Dergent)

This is the story of the Birtley Belgians,
the shellers from hell,
the wandering men 
and the women they wed.
You can say goodbye to your friends.

These are the remants of Elisabethville,
the shattered relics of battered soldiers,
the shards of savagery,
the empty shells of discarded folk.

This is what’s left of the carnage,
the last of the war effort,
the smiles of the children
and the severed limbs.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

From Flanders and Wallonia they came
leaving beloved roots behind
to do their bit for the ritual slaughter,
to bring up well their sons and daughters
to dance and sing
under the hails of bullets.

Fishing for sunshine in the Ijzer brook,
kicking stones on the Rue de Charleroi,
the Birtley Belgians
planted their seed on Durham ground
and made do
and made explosive dreams.
What more can we tell?
‘Home is made for coming from,
for dreams of going to 
which with any luck
will never come true.’

Sweating in uniform
on assembly lines,
pulverising their brains
to keep the powers that be in power,
they were strong
and at the same time weak
and screamed and cried
like anyone.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

They’re gone now,
blown to dust
in the festering fields,
memories strewn over the way
to fertilise another day
with the same weary mistakes
and thrusts of love.

I can see the boys in the Villa de Bruges
slaking their frustrated fantasies
to drown the horror 
and the girls
seductive behind the huts
in between
the grind of daily production.

Let me take you
up the Boulevard Queen Mary,
along the Rue de Louvain,
knock on the door of number D2
and blood will pour
and the ground will open up,
‘mud will take you prisoner’
and devour all those years.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

You can hear their singing on the North Sea wind,
hear them in Chester le Street and Liege,
the brass band and orchestra
drowning out the distant pounding.
In and out of trouble,
we will always dance.

An accordion wails across the little streets,
the Three Tuns welcomes the living.
And at the crack of dawn
and in the battlefields of evening clouds
we will remember them,
in the words of the Walloon poet Camille Fabry proclaim:
‘Our thoughts fly like arrows back to the land of our birth.’

This is story of the loss of lives
for causes we scarcely understand
but for love and grandeur too
and for the little Belgian children
and the joyous games they play.
Ths is the story of the Birtley Belgians.



KEITH ARMSTRONG



The Birtley Belgians emigrated from Belgium to Birtley, County Durham during World War 1 to build an armaments factory and lived in their own specially created village.  
Named after the Queen of the Belgians, Elisabethville itself became Little Belgium - a colony of 6,000 people, of boules and of boulevards.

It had its own hospital, cemetery, school, church, nunnery and Co-op; only Flemish and Walloon were spoken.

The Birtley factory was to the north of the town, British built but entirely Belgian run. By 1916 it gave work to 3,500 men, 85 per cent disabled in some way, with 2,500 family members also housed in the adjacent iron fenced village. 


The poem was commissioned by the Birtley Belgians Euro-Network in 2015 in association with Borsolino and Berline Belgian Drama Groups.

9.4.15

FROM KOSTROMA, DURHAM'S RUSSIAN TWIN CITY

 The books from Durham are in Kostroma!
A personal thank-you to Keith Armstrong, author and editor!

7.4.15

I LOVE THE LIGHT IN TUEBINGEN





























I love the light
in Tuebingen
streaming down Marktgasse,
flooding in my beautiful blue eyes.

In this light,
I see
the good times
I have dwelt in here
over the bowling years:

the chemistry of Goethe,
the love of books
and poetry that sings
with the joyous swifts,
screeches with
the very pain of life.

This town
casts a glow
in me,
throws me lifelines
to write with,
fishing for ideas
in the sweeping river:

boats
of finished pamphlets
nodding at me
in the sunshine.

I love the light
in Tuebingen
streaming down Marktgasse,
flooding in my beautiful blue eyes.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

31.3.15

PUTTING KATWIJK ON MAPS




























There is always a night in Katwijk,
Forever a moon in the daylight.
And its rain belts down just the same,
Pouring our loves down the drain.

And the darkness can last forever
Like the mist in a cold September.
The sea sails along in the winds
That batter our Katwijk blinds.

And yet this Katwijk will stay
Forever and a livelong day,
Reminding us of gulls on the swell
And larks in the sound of church bells.

We danced in the Katwijk streets,
Her eyes alight in dark sheets.
I thought she would never die
In the rolling of her thighs.

These little avenues reel
To the clatter of her high heels.
And it will always be the rain
That soaks me through to the brain.

So let us put Katwijk on maps
To honour the love that it mocks.
There’s a joy to be felt in its trees
Alongside the pains in its seas.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

29.3.15

KELSEY GRAMMER AND ME


























The man from Buckie
who works with fish
is out of water 
on the flight home from Dublin.
He tells me that I’m the second most famous man 
he’s ever met
after Kelsey Grammer
who he shared a table wIth 
in New York City.
Such airy tales,
how am I to take them?
A very humble poet
flying out of his depth
to the safety of his own bed
after spreading his verse
all over Limerick
and Dublin.
Of course,
If I’d really sought success,
I wouldn’t be here now
in the blue and yellow of Ryanair
needing a can of Magners
to relax in the clouds
that befuddle my eyes
with the accumulated tears
of artistic failure.
I could also take it 
as a compliment
that I am just like Frasier
all of a twitch
in the morning studio,
ready to land abruptly on the scary runway
of my trembling verse,
back in my own Newcastle
and the pitter patter of too many Geordies
too early on the razzle dazzle
in this shit-stained broon ale toon.
So thank you Mr Buckie man
for killing a good hour or so together in the air,
we made each other’s day.
And even if you
were seriously taking the piss,
I still hope you get to sleep,
up to your eyes in bleeding thistles
and dawn cargoes 
of flying fish.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

28.3.15

AIR CRASH



All the lives
that have flown away;
those precious eyes,
those bodies that pushed themselves into love,
the blood stained clothes
they sweated blood for,
and this crippled wreck
of strangled metal
and twisted guts;
a strange and desperate evolution
mocked constantly by drifting birds.
Who could have expected this?
On a day of sun and plastic food,
these fine hands,
minutes before burning,
had picked their way
with knives and forks
through clouds;
now, who points the finger?
What airline lifeline?
What God?
All this insistent movement,
this wish to fly,
the fear of standing
still,
and theses wingless people
scorched to death
in search of 
the sun.




Keith Armstrong



Кит Армстронг

УПАВШИМ В НЕБО

Всем душам,
упавшим в небо.
Бесценным взорам глаз.
Телам, в любви запечатленным.

Окровавленным одеждам
в последнем паническом поту.
Летучему киту из алюминия,
со сломанным хребтом и вывернутым наизнанку чревом.

Каравану птиц-пересмешников
над странным, страшным полем последнего упокоения.
Спросить ли: кто мог ТАКОЕ предсказать?..

За иллюминатором сияло солнце.
Живые руки брали пищу с пластмассовых подномов.
Минута и пальцы сгорят вместе с пластиковыми ножами, вилками...

А пока они парят над тучами, не ведая про указующий им Перст?
Их пункт прибытья --- Небеса?
Бог --- диспетчер?..

Perpetuum mobile.
Стремление к полету.
Страх неподвижности.
Бескрылость. Плоть, скворчащая в огне.
Чем выше --- ближе
к Солнцу.


Translation: Yuri Stoma

25.3.15

LINES (FOR THE UNKNOWN DESERTERS)






























Lines 
crawl
across the stepping stones
that make up the bustle of these streets.
They mark out the flow of history’s streams
in this city’s ancient landscape,
signify the tragic tunnels of a careworn people’s hurts.
Under today’s footsteps,
the old folk crawled
at the mercy of the bombed weather,
the walls shaking with the tremor
of momentous events,
racist madness,
words, shaking from dictators’ mouths,
cutting into the bones
of wretched beings.
Looking up Muenzgasse,
we crouch to hide the hurt.
It Is too much to bear 
this memory
of Gestapo cruelties, 
the rank inhumanity
that is so unkind
to strangers: 
the Jew, the Sinti,
the Roma,
the different,
the cripple,
the Communist and Gay.
How callous
to ignore the poor man
next to you in the Boulanger,
the pain all around you
in the church’s bullet-holed walls.
Sit in the gorgeous sun
and feel the Synagogue burn
on Kristallnacht,
let the red wine
soak the stress away
but look down
on these crazy paths
and feel
the rumble of yesterdays’ aching
under the soles 
of your searching feet.
True glory lies, my Eberhard,
in making peace,
not in the flash of bayonets,
the fighting cocks,
the rape of beauty.
It is our duty to dance,
to flit between the lines.
The rays of golden lights,
like butterflies,
flicker as caught moments 
in the shadow of this cafe, 
thrilling
with a positive life,
new under the sun.


KEITH ARMSTRONG,

Tuebingen.



*In the Holzmarkt in Tuebingen, near the entrance to the church, is a recent memorial probably not intended to be permanent. Yellow lines show the outlines of the underground tunnels built as air-raid shelters during the last two years of the war. 
Today, the tunnels are closed off and filled-in but the ghostly outlines are an effective memorial device.
There is no explanation for the yellow lines so passers-by often have no idea that they are walking over a reminder of the war. 
On Muenzgasse, is another entrance into the shelter. This was the police building until well into the post-war period. During the Nazi period, it was also the Gestapo office in Tuebingen. From here, the Tuebingen Jews were gathered for deportation.

*A monument is located away from the city centre, just south of the railroad tracks near the Finanzamt. 
The monument commemorates the 10th Wuerttemberg Infantry Regiment in the First World War. 
It shows the coat of arms for Wuerttemberg and reads: ‘Fearless and loyal. 141 officers and over 3000 other ranks fell for the Fatherland.’
In the autumn of 2007, the memorial was vandalized with images of ejaculating penises. 

*A square in Tuebingen was recently named ‘Platz des unbekannten Deserteurs’ - ‘Unknown Deserters’ Square’. 
The street sign reads: ‘In the years 1944 and 1945, when the criminal war of the National Socialists was nearing its end, many soldiers of the German armed forces deserted. They were mercilessly persecuted as ‘deserters’ and sentenced to death. More than 20,000 sentences were carried out. There were soldiers in the Tuebingen barracks who also no longer wanted to make pointless sacrifices for the National Socialist regime. It is not known how many there were, nor do we know their names. Witnesses report several cases. The deserters were shot in a clearing not far from here. In memory of this, the Tuebingen City Council resolved to name this square in July of 2008.’

23.3.15

IN A PALACE BAR AFTERNOON



‘When I first came to Dublin in 1939, I thought the Palace the most wonderful temple of art.’ (Patrick Kavanagh)


Dead conversations
and dud cheques
litter the gaps
between the gawping portraits
in this literary back room.
Here in the afternoon of Irish culture,
I hear the creak of Kavanagh’s knees
going down the steep bog stairs
pissing words away,
holding another conversation
in his clumsy hands.

So what’s a poetry boy to do?
Sozzle through another day,
dance betwen the lines of pints of plain,
wallow in the crevices of Beckett’s genius,
creep around the Palace floor,
scraping for scraps of dead oral histories?

For today, 
I’ll put away my pen
worn out with trying 
to trap the City of Limerick
in groping poems.
I’ll sit back
and crack with Duffy,
Lonsdale and the lads,
let Bertie Smyllie’s barking patter 
wash over my weariness.
Leave it to the shawlies 
in the huddled snug
to set things right,
I’m flying without a passport today,
buzzing along with Jimmy Joyce on board
this Ryanair Ulysses jet,
At Swim Two Birds.

And what’s the point
of lies in ink
when real poetry
should make a woman come
with the touch
of bird song on the lips of this hour?
Give your tongues a break,
Behan and Houlihan
and the rest, 
we’re dust
on a skin of Guinness.

And yet 
and yet,
the twinkle of light
through the old smoke of patter
does make the breath
in the lungs 
of a Dublin dancing day
as worthwhile
as the sweeping kiss
of that gull’s wings 
stroking the mouth of the Liffey.  




KEITH ARMSTRONG

the jingling geordie

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