jingle jingle!

jingle jingle!

20.9.17

CITY OF PEANUTS: JIMMY CARTER IN NEWCASTLE (MAY 6TH 1977)































Abattoir City,
streets of cattle.
Cut veins 
and horny days,
we'll have your guts
for Carter.
'Howay the Lads!',
the leaders grin
and take you in,
use your blood 
to colour carpets.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

17.9.17

DOCTOR ARMSTRONG'S TUEBINGEN POETRY TOUR!




































photos: otto buchegger & christoph melchers





GIRL IN HOLZMARKT
(for Susanne, from a photograph)

Near Heckenhauer’s snoozing bookshop,
where Hesse once shelved poems,
you are standing
frail,
arms crossed lightly
in the pouring sun.
Your fine cheekbones
in shadow,
drenched face
in thought,
you listen deeply
to the bright street-harpist
plucking music from the day.
Your hair is flowing
black in the fine afternoon;
you are obviously a thinker,
fragile as a cloud;
withdrawn you are
yet still stand out
in this basking, strolling, crowd:
I think your name is Susanne
and I see your skin is milky;
and I wonder,
twelve years on,
where you have gone.
I sense
that you’ll have babies,
they are plainly in blue eyes,
and, in that filmic moment,
you do look beautiful to me:
a precious one, you’re trapped
in this snapshot album,
delicate
in not knowing
that the wall has been
pulled down.

 

                                                                            
KEITH ARMSTRONG






WOODEN HEART: A NEW SONG IN THE MORNING FOR PHILIPP FRIEDRICH SILCHER  (1789-1860)*

Through an arch of towering plane trees,
I reach to touch the hips
of an upright Swabian girl,
her lips
fresh with strawberries
from a breakfast bowl of kisses
sprinkled with sugar
and yesterday’s cream.
The birds of the Platanenallee
fly on the wings of melancholy,
the breeze of history
scenting their songs.
It dawns on me
that the rain
will lash against our faces
as we push our way
through the saluting wood.
The day is crumbling already
around us
with the leaves memorably
crunching under our futile tread.
Half way along the soaking avenue,
the sun like a song
sparkles in my eyes
and lights my last hours
with the beauty of skies.
And suddenly
you are there
your lump of a statue
bursting though the leaves,
a kind of terrible stone
trapping your crumbling tunes
inside rock.
To take a frail life
and carve it into something immortal
is a folly as well as a tribute
to the hypocrisy of pompous little leaders
seeking to employ music
for their brutal ends.
So I say
and so we sing
of beautiful glances
and military funerals
of dead songbirds
in the path of bullets.
I climb in spirit
to reach the flesh of this lovely girl,
for a moment
I am happy and then it is gone
behind the clouds of war.
And this is for you Friedrich
from my fluttering heart
in a sea of shaking branches,
reaching out
for humanity
to triumph
over the horror
of the mundane,
a gift of a song for you,
a lovely glass of wine
as the armies march again
into the blind alley
of a bleak despair:

Can't you see
I love you?
Please don't break my heart in two,
That's not hard to do,
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.
And if you say goodbye,
Then I know that I would cry,
Maybe I would die,
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.

There's no strings upon this love of mine,
It was always you from the start.
Treat me nice,
Treat me good,
Treat me like you really should,
'Cause I'm not made of wood,
And I don't have a wooden heart.

Muss i denn, muss i denn
Zum Staedtele hinaus,
Staedtele hinaus,
Und du, mein schat, bleibst hier?

Muss i denn, muss i denn
Zum Staedtele hinaus,
Staedtele hinaus,
Und du, mein schat, bleibst hier?
(Got to go, got to go,
Got to leave this town,
Leave this town
And you, my dear, stay here?).

There’s no strings upon this love of mine,
It was always you from the start,
Sei mir gut,
Sei mir gut,
Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst,
Wie du wirklich sollst,
(Treat me nice,
Treat me good,
Treat me like you really should,
Like you really should),
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.

 


KEITH ARMSTRONG

*Swabian musician Philipp Friedrich Silcher originally composed the tune, based on a folk lyric, used in the pop song ‘Wooden Heart’. His statue by Wilhelm Julius Frick (1884-1964), erected in 1941, is in Tuebingen by the River Neckar.








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
 




ELEPHANTS IN TUEBINGEN


Such a postwar circus,
swill of pigs and drawn out cold war,
the bleeding never stops.
Under the straw,
the claw of a miserable history
grabs down the years
at the young who are innocent
of all the butchery and whoredom.
Imperial Germany is a fagged out colonial office,
a sweating prison
of bashed up ideals,
a broken clock
covered in ticks and leeches.

The animals have escaped
and invade the Market Place.
Elephants sup at Neptune’s old fountain,
spurt out the foam of stagnant days,
trunks curling to taste the Neckar water.

This Tuebingen is a surreal pantomime:
barmaids swing from ceilings,
policemen hang from their teeth.
Frau Binder throws them buns.

And our Max Planck is a dream inventor.
Some boffin of his crosses a peach with a tulip,
the genetics of a bayonet in a breast.
The menagerie moves on to the Castle,
a giraffe nibbles at a church.
The sun gnaws at the clouds.

Like a clown,
I leap to down beer.
And a hideously sweet lady cracks a whip
and flashes her milky thigh at me.
It is no good.
I cannot raise a glassy smile anymore.
This circus is a tragedy.
The animals are sad
and rotten
with the stink of carnage,
seeping
from your television screens.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


 

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

14.9.17

TAPESTRY



































tapestry

poor avenues
life rich
tapestry

warm glow
community
hope springs

pit broken
grass grows
blink bonny

clocks alarm
wake joy in us
buses sweep past

at morn
buried dreams
night sings

town in winter
frosty coats
hearts melt

come the day
me hinny
love speaks

the streets glow
in my memory
golden times

this is
my home
your honour

badges in dust
in my chest
pride

our children
sing
heal wounds

my love
black and white
cups

wansbeck
flows
red

once
my eyes
glowed

my heart
ashington
ash town

yer bugs
i’m drowning
in kisses

deliver
babies
gifts

seed
with my eyes
visions

wor jackie
bobbing
river

doon that hole
gold
nuggets

this is my place
no place
for rats

turn pages
seek liberty
in ancient books

photographs
wor lass
beautiful

bring me sunshine
light
the back lanes

kicking a ball
the walls
echo






KEITH ARMSTRONG

10.9.17

JOSEPH SKIPSEY: PITMAN POET - GATESHEAD EVENT















































TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30pm

BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD

WEA NE History and Heritage Branch & NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903)







THE W.E.A. AND NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903) 185TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH EVENT WITH TYNESIDE LAUNCH  OF A NEW BOOK ABOUT SKIPSEY PUBLISHED BY NVCP IN ASSOCIATION WITH NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL.
FEATURING POETRY AND SONGS BY CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BOOK, TOGETHER WITH READINGS OF SKIPSEY'S OWN POEMS, INTRODUCED BY EDITORS KEITH ARMSTRONG AND PETER DIXON OF NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS WITH FOLK MUSIC BY THE SAWDUST JACKS AND ALSO FEATURING ANN SESSOMS ON NORTHUMBRIAN PIPES WITH PERIOD TUNES.

TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30PM, BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD.





Dr Jude Murphy, Project Organiser (Heritage)
Part-time : working days: Tuesday to Thursday

WEA North East Region
Joseph Cowen House, 21 Portland Terrace
Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1QQ

0191 212 6125
jmurphy@wea.org.uk
www.ne.wea.org.uk

5.9.17

I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE FORTH BRIDGE




Dear Mr. Armstrong,
I hope this finds you well.  I've never done this in my life - i.e. contact a writer - but felt I really had to thank you for the fabulous poem about the Forth Bridge which appeared in the Scottish Review.   It so inspired me that I wanted to hang out the window and shout it across the bay!  (I live on a wee island on the west coast.)

Not only do I also love that bridge (I spent my childhood holidays in Fife and always got so excited whenever we crossed it), but I like bridges in general (don't know what that says about me and don't care to find out!).  I'm also a Russian speaker and absolutely love Mayakovsky's great poem inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge. Yours is equally inspiring, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway - all I wanted to do was to congratulate you and say thank you for that truly marvellous poem.  It made my day reading it.

All the best,
Moira Dalgetty


http://www.scottishreview.net/KeithArmstrong61.shtml?utm_source=Sign-Up.to&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8427-288448-No+comment%3A+the+%27spokespersons%27+and+their+secrets






























































Strapping girders,
lusty arches:
the span of my ambition,
shore to shore
you link me with the old bones,
the new ways,
the true trains that take me
down the path of all my loves.
You lift up your wide arms
to take in the tide,
roll with the shaking wind
that whistles in the rushes
of the wild banks.
You thrill me with your size,
your strong embrace;
you roar with achievement,
you make me proud:
I could hug you.
Let me take the Queensferry train,
slide through you to freedom.
The pipes play
and the kilts sway
to greet us.
You are the opening,
the gap we streak through
to the woolly wilds
of Auld Reekie
and Bonnie Old Dundee;
to the sea of workers’ blood,
the red rust of the past that clings
and hugs the bones of dead engineers.
In the Albert Hotel,
tucked up, I hear you moan in the darkness.
Naked,
I pull back the curtains
and see you floodlit
in all your entrancing glory.
Shine on, shine
you crazy bridge.
You have my devotion,
you have my deepest darkest love.
I would climb you stripped;
I would feel you breathe in the Firth wind.
I give you my heart and soul,
I am frail against your depth.
You will outlive me,
do not mock me,
you are superb.
You are my outstretched lovely;
I will breathe through you,
long for you,
die for you.
Rock me,
go Forth
and inspire me.




KEITH ARMSTRONG


Peter Selgin Love this very fine poem and the bridge that inspired it

2.9.17

SONG FOR NORTHUMBERLAND BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG: NOW ON DISPLAY AT NEW YOUTH HOSTEL



My poem 'Song for Northumberland' now on permanent display, with image of Bamburgh, at new youth hostel at Bardon Mill.

1.9.17

OLD STATIONS






































(for Kathleen Sisterson)




There’s an old station

I keep dreaming of

where I wandered

as a child;

flower baskets

seep with longing

and engines

pant with steam.

It might have been

at Chollerton,

in a summer’s field,

when I realised

how good 

life could be,

in the sunshine

of my songs;

or it might have been

at Falstone

where the roses

smelt of smoke

and I felt

the breath of railwaymen

wafting in my hair.

This little boy,

with his North Tyne lilt

and the dialect

of ancients,

ran up the platform

of his life

and chased

the racing clouds.

It was a first taste

of Kielder Forest

and the light

that skimmed the hills

and the engine

rattled through the day

to drive me 

to my roots:

to Deadwater

and Saughtree,

the hours flew

for miles

and the railway

ran into my veins

and sparked 

history in my soul.

In this album

of a fragile world,

I’d like to leave 

these lines 

for you to find

in Bellingham

or Wark,

a tune to play

in Reedsmouth

in Woodburn 

or in Wall.

Along this route, 

I hope you'll find

a glimpse of me in youth;

the smiling child,

inside the man,

who took the train

by chance

and found his way 

with words

and leaves

to Thorneyburn 

and Riccarton,

along the tracks

of dreams.







KEITH ARMSTRONG




Beautiful and evocative. (Conrad Atkinson)

Thanks for your wonderful poem 'Old Stations'. It's a truly moving piece of work, tapping childhood nostalgia but in away that seems naturally to a young imagination being born of the lore and physicality of the trains and railway stations. (Noel Duffy)

Really liked that one, so descriptive, I could see it all in my mind’s eye! (Marie Little)




Wonderfully evocative, Keith. (Sid Smith)




Like it! (Pete Thompson)


It's great Keith! (Peter Common)

As ever, a lovely poem & one I can easily relate to. (Geoff Holland)








(from forthcoming book and film -
written for an exhibition at Bellingham Heritage Centre, June 2013)

25.8.17

THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903)


THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903) 185TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH EVENT WITH LAUNCH OF A NEW BOOK ABOUT SKIPSEY PUBLISHED BY NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS  IN ASSOCIATION WITH NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL.
FEATURING POETRY AND SONGS BY CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BOOK, TOGETHER WITH READINGS OF SKIPSEY'S OWN POEMS, INTRODUCED BY EDITORS KEITH ARMSTRONG AND PETER DIXON OF NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS WITH FOLK MUSIC BY THE SAWDUST JACKS AND ALSO FEATURING ANN SESSOMS ON NORTHUMBRIAN PIPES WITH PERIOD TUNES.

ST JOHN’S CHURCH, ST JOHN’S TERRACE, PERCY MAIN.

PART OF HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 2017.

THURSDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 10AM. ADMISSION FREE.


FROM A PITMAN POET TO A MAGPIE ANGEL:
TYNESIDE CHARACTERS - A TRAWL THROUGH OUR LOCAL HISTORY WITH POET DR KEITH ARMSTRONG (THE JINGLING GEORDIE) AND FRIENDS, FEATURING THE SAWDUST JACKS FOLK GROUP AND CELEBRATING THE 185TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903) AND THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF NEWCASTLE UNITED.

A NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS EVENT.

THE RED HOUSE, SANDHILL, NEWCASTLE. THURSDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 12.30PM. ADMISSION FREE.

PART OF HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 2017.

FURTHER INFORMATION FROM NVCP: TEL 0191 2529531.



THE W.E.A. AND NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903) 185TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH EVENT WITH TYNESIDE LAUNCH  OF A NEW BOOK ABOUT SKIPSEY PUBLISHED BY NVCP IN ASSOCIATION WITH NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL.
FEATURING POETRY AND SONGS BY CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BOOK, TOGETHER WITH READINGS OF SKIPSEY'S OWN POEMS, INTRODUCED BY EDITORS KEITH ARMSTRONG AND PETER DIXON OF NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS WITH FOLK MUSIC BY THE SAWDUST JACKS AND ALSO FEATURING ANN SESSOMS ON NORTHUMBRIAN PIPES WITH PERIOD TUNES.

TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30PM, BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD.

24.8.17

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

20.8.17

RICHARD STRAUSS
































The sky surrounds me.
Why have I walked so tall?
I rest my weary head
on this cold mountain,
milky pastures
wrapped around the hills
like scarves.

Snow falls in my hair,
melts into dandruff.
I am combing this mountainside for you
Richard Strauss
of the long locks,
whose private house dreams down below,
beneath the looming avalanche of Alps.

I have flown this far to touch you,
to scrape a hill with a fingernail,
to walk barefoot on Bavaria.

The military bands still bury the dead.
A raucous bell around your neck,
The music is not pretty.
It howls from the Russian front
and splinters the bones of a Garmisch churchyard.
And now, through the eyes of the Zugspitze, I watch
fresh battles conducted on your beloved soil,
GIs skiing patterns of another war.

In this time, I lie naked all night,
all ears to your drifting music
as it whistles across the valley,
telling the grumbling peasants that
you too were really a lonely man

who kissed the snow,
and Adolf’s freezing hand.





Keith Armstrong,
Garmisch

GRONINGEN POEMS









































 






KEEP AN EYE ON THE MARTINI TOWER FOR ME

(GRONINGEN POEMS)

KEITH ARMSTRONG



DANGEROUS TO BE SOBER IN GRONINGEN


dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too many sissy boys
on the loose
city poets
sweeping the streets
for verse
girls sticking their fingers
in my irish coffee
blobs of cream
on their lips

dangerous
to be sober in hotel de doelen
too much history
in the bathrooms
nazi tanks
rolling over it
or worse
supporters of f.c. groningen
in my face
teeth rattling with chants
from young throats

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too many doors revolving
in my eyes
undergound activists
digging up euros
for liquorice suppers
rights campaigners
stinking of fish
yesterday’s papers
under their feet

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too much to lose
too many egos
in the wind
guitarists shouting off
their helpless lyrics
whores
in the red windows
showing me their wares
when i’m drunk

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too much sleet
up your nose
pancake ships
sinking at night
in a sea of black moths
short skirts
troubling my fantasies
bottles in my mouth
and thirsty heart

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too many clocks looking down
on my words
the infernal ticking
of lost days
down the drain
the rain slashing
the cobbles of time
outliving my skin
and drenched soul

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too much warmth
in cafe marleen
the beckoning stools
of intoxicated moments
swirling by
the chatter of pigeons
gobbling up seconds
nibbling in my head
and my hungover poems

dangerous
to be sober in groningen

dangerous
to be sober in groningen




HUIS DE BEURS


Spinning and reeling,
days slipped by the window,
thudding clouds.
We rock in candlelight,
piano glows.
Sun’s sunk into the red carpet,
blood in the skin of the wine,
juicy dregs of another spilt day.
Old friends they have come
through this infernal revolving door
and gone on to evolve
long faces in the mist.
New vistas swing
through the old market
to make the lifelight
shine in our hearts.
Dragging on the stubs of years,
blowing out memory’s vague smoke.
Wet cobbles
glint with the dreams of fish,
flashing girls stream by
on darting bikes.
The crippled sunset
of war years,
the modern politics of fear.
Throw me another cigar
hand over your gear,
let us meet
in socialist song.
Your fleeting poetry
is a scarf tossed
round my neck.
My handsome northern mate,
I am going Dutch tonight.
That Mr Piano Man
flies across the bar
to catch an A Train again
for the fresh morning,
love’s daybreak.
My darling,
kiss my poet's lips,
let us greet the warm flesh
of Groningen
breathing.



GROTE MARKT, GRONINGEN


Grote Markt,
big as my heart,
your stones are wet
with all the kisses of my life.
Wide with welcome,
you open up the skies for me,
your face changes with the clouds.
Your winning charm
can sell me anything.
I embrace your openness,
your outstretched body
bears me fruit
and the raw fish
of morning,
sunshine memories
and the delicate touch
of the moon.
Dance with me,
there is light
in all your puddles
of yearning.
Smile,
all the blood
is washed
away.



GRONINGEN HORSES


Groningen horses
drag me here,
run wild in my brain,
leap in the imagery of the artist Werkman,
trot through my memories of wet streets,
jump over bars to greet me.
Their hooves clopping
through the shit of war,
they dart in the night along Guldenstraat,
wake in me dreams of the sleeping fields,
the swish of old tales
gone out of our minds.
Their withers are broad as Uncle Loeks’ back,
their haunches like a woman’s arse
I once knew.
What do they think of it all,
the fantasies in the Town Hall,
the pall of depression over Europe?
Stride on my sturdy Groningen beasts,
may your cannon bones,
your barrels,
your flanks,
roar with energy
zoom across this yawning,
dawning market square
and treat these sobbing days
as if they were not there.


VISMARKT
(for Rense Sinkgraven)

The Mayor is bothered
about the litter in my brain;
the dross of poems
spilled out onto bar floors
and the fishy streets of Groningen.
He prowls the gutters
of my verse,
seeking to tidy up
the rhymes
and times I slopped
erotic images
between the lines
of council meetings.
The detritus
from lost poetry readings
gathers up
in windy corners
on this market day,
curled up
into sodden memories,
dark with crumbling print.
This city’s flags
continue
to flap proud,
defiant
in the rampant northern breeze,
fingers of lost empires
forlornly
waving
at laughing girls
and daring boys
dashing headlong
over stinking bones.
You will not make me clean,
I am a dirty poet
whose head aches
with dark subversive thoughts.
I am not tidy,
my very speech
remains unruly
as a mad professor in the Huis de Beurs.
I will mess up your streets
with a dynamic anarchy
until a true democracy
makes a clean breast of things
and the road sweepers
and dreamers
of the Vismarkt
share a green and wondrous world.



KEEP AN EYE ON THE MARTINI TOWER FOR ME


Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me
while I struggle with my life.
I still miss the smell of fish
and the smoke of the Huis de Beurs.
I will be back, with another song,
for Mister Wilcox’s Liberation Tour.
I will be ready for that Pancake Ship
and the drunken stools of O’Ceallaigh’s.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me
while I work out which view to see.
I will be shouting in a twin town
and killing my time with romance.
I will be smashing through politicians
and drowning in red lights.
I will be rehearsing poems,
forgetting how real life hurts.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me,
I’m tearing up coasts to greet you.
You’ll see my ghost in Schipol,
with a pint of strong blood in a glass.
I’m on my way back to Groningen ,
with the smack of three kisses on me,
to shake the warm hand of a city poet,
to piss in the face of a heckler.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me,
I was happy in the Land of Cockaigne.
I could see clowns on a dismal day
and blondes in a sea of black.
I met a Grey Man with a girl of nineteen
and I asked him to show me the way.
I saw an old hand hack the guts from a beast
and sucked a cigar to be kind.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me,
don’t let her fly away.
I need her to hold my life together,
I crave her to show me the way.
I want her to lean my fragile bones against,
I need history to guide my feet.
I have left a careworn scarf with you,
keep it warm for when I come back.



GRONINGEN GUITARS


Oh the groaning
of Groningen guitars,
the twang
of its gutters
and bars,
rolling of memory,
filling up dreams
of canals,
cracking with ice.
Gestapo days
and dead poets
swimming
in music;
the roaring days,
the roaring boys
and gorgeous girls
strummed away,
dancing
out of my eyes
into graveyards
of songs sung.
Spilt notes
and words
weeping for forgiveness
and joy.



CITY POET
(for ronald ohlsen & rense sinkgraven)

i am this blue barge
the pancake ship
the casino of flashing neon
i am the light in a fish’s eyes
the icy herring down the throat

I am the city poet

i am the unknown lanes we stalk along
a red shirt
the stripper of paint
i am death waiting at the railway station
a duvel in the old buffet

i am the city poet

i am a museum of children
an irish pub out of place
the ancient bard etching odes
i am the word stuck in your head
the drugs from last night

i am the city poet

i am the next call
the starlings wheeling in the dusk
the darkness she brought you
i am the sober priest in the drunk’s tower
the bus stop you kissed her at

i am the city poet

i am a walking cinema
the empty library
the last one for the road
i am the finger in her pants
a frightening glance of yourself


i am the city poet

i am this laughing church
this gas factory
the football game from hell
i am a cracking goal
the free man in a prison

i am the city poet

i am a scream in a dull meeting
the chairman of the bored
the councillor for happiness
i am a stinking canal
the giggle in her blouse

i am the city poet

i am a yellow train
a flash across the countryside
the bearer of state grants
i am a brilliant dustman
a spade amongst hearts

i am the city poet

i am a word swimmer
a shipbuilder who rhymes
the planner of good times
i am an evil messenger
the dart in his face

i am the city poet

i am these streets
a fag in the pewking gutter
the ministry of obscure diseases
i am your filthy town
the tears in your homesick eyes

i am the city poet



IN GRONINGEN MUSEUM
(in honour of John William Waterhouse, 1849-1917)

Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers.

Pictures of the weary traveller
sleeping on a train,
slipping slowly down,
sipping seeping rain.

Images of a little boy
learning how to speak,
lips leaking words,
lilting leaping streets.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly.

Eyes floating in the museum
glance from another day,
gorgeous girls on fire,
glaring golden rays.

Flames of a shattered light
bursting on the walls,
buds blazing with life,
blooming beauty curls.

In her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights.

Strands of a lover’s hair
playing in my face,
painful pangs of lust,
pulling parting lace.

Curves of a winter’s bones
thread through my breath,
tears trickling away,
teasing threadbare dress.

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.

Shards of sunlit ale
flickering in my throat,
feelings filtering in the air,
fear framing boats.

Canals of soaking memories
drowning in my eyes,
drifting darlings of the past,
draped delicate thighs.

A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high.

Tunes from the fields
call a city’s voices,
coursing chords of love,
crazy calming noise.

Choirs of Groningen fish
hollering in the dawn,
heavenly hearts of folk,
history’s hopes are torn.

They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.



FOR MARIEKE


I always thought
that, when you smiled,
Groningen seemed a prettier place
to me
and the Grote Markt,
beneath my unsteady feet,
hugged me
like my father did
in his strong and quiet way.
It is always good,
when I am travelling,
to know
that I have friends
in many strange and different cities
and keys to many doors.
For nothing is ever fixed
or permanent.
Smiles are only fleeting
but one like yours
shines bright
in the very beer of sunlight;
especially,
in the anxious heart
of this Newcastle poet.



THE PLOUGH/DE PLOEG
(for Haren 850)

We plough on,
bearing the years on our frail backs,
across wide fields,
wild with history.
We carry our paints
and canvases
over the grass,
in order to capture
a moment’s beauty.
We write it down,
we proud poets and local historians,
our vivid past makes our poems wiser.
There is an old bird
flying overhead,
above the windmill of dreams
its beak points towards the distant barn,
showing us where
the ancient wounds are.
We must suffer
over and over again,
850 times if necessary,
in order
to celebrate,
to be able
to dance
along this town’s
narrow streets,
teeming
with memories
of brutal wars,
deaths
and fresh births.
Show me some joyous flowers,
ring tunes on the bell,
and I will show you
the scars of battles.
But today
let us sing
in our old church,
play local hymns
on this fine organ.
With a death defying love
of our great heritage,
we will feed our little children,
all the joy
in our heartfelt Haren lives.


I AM THE UNSUNG SINGER (to Isaac Gosschalk)

'A conflict between God and the Devil is raging in the Museum, a conflict between life and death, between heaven and hell, a struggle in celestial realms.'
(L.P. Dovenbos)

I am the unsung singer
begging for the bones
of a tune
at the feet of the barrel organ
of E.F. van Polen.
Scouring the plains,
that stretch from Groningen to the Urals,
I am looking for a song
in this strange land.

Is it in the heart of gorgeous Annemarie de Groot?
Or in the pen of poet Jaap Pijper?
How many more times must I trail
my clapped-out fingers
over the luscious skin of a girl called Nynke
to feel the happiness I had as a child?

If I feed my voice with the guts of the sea in the Vismarkt,
if I scrape my fingernails along bleeding Folkingestraat,
I might find a lyric,
a drunk ballad,
a play of passion,
to set the Drama Department ablaze
with true music.

My God! Is there no end to it?
This lust to suck harmony from women's throats.
It takes me trudging down Sledemannerstraat,
it makes me grope doorways along Turfstraat to find her,
to squeeze the good fruit of her.

You may say that I'm a hopeless drunk,
swept along by the irate Groningen wind,
who throws death down his neck in O'Ceallaigh's,
who throws lighters at burnt out musicians;
who dances naked in a Casino of Torture,
who lies locked in the warm arms of a student,
with the curtains rattling
like snakes in the soaking night.

Well, I claim the right to destroy myself
before your Great Army of Culture gets me
and traps me in stone.
Look! It's a picture of me!
Snogging a pretty lesbian in the Concert Hall,
as the blazered ranks of your Male Voice Choir
mime another folk song.

'Panis Angelicus,
Oh bread of Angels,
prepared for men'.

I'm the Devil in the bowels of the Martinikerk,
I am sweet and I am dry.
I'm the kind of kind guy,
with a Metworst in my angry mouth,
who robs a beggar of his poetry in Tuinstraat,
who snatches the melody from street singer Jan Roos.

Come with me,
Kees Korenhof
and Herman Finkers,
down Nieuwstad in all the strangled darkness,
to grip that Frisian whore's suspenders,
lift guilders from the canal banks
and jenevers from the Sea.

City of Knowledge,
your hooded man
is always at my shoulder,
and your songbird's always
pecking at my heart.
Let the warm breath of your tired farmers
sigh in the breeze
and teach me
to sing an anthem again.



IN DICKENSIAN HAREN
(for Henk & the Dickens’ Library)


In Dickensian Haren
this curious day,
we are men with a careworn mission;
impersonators of ill fortune,
scraping our feet
through the back lanes of Groningen,
in search of the famous beard
and the dribble of trashed dreams.
We are reciting the great lines of Charles
on a stumbling Sunday
and we wonder why.
Why does the suffering go on?
The inequality of chance,
the dirty rhythm of brass
rattling in banks?
The Scrooge days
the days of mindless Self,
the selfish?

For Dickens is alive and vivid this minute,
Dickens is witness.

We slaver out our words,
whip out our tongues for the public
and wonder as we wander
through the pages of Nickleby and Hard Times
what men ever learn.

We go on to admire
the bound copies
in the sacred library,
toast a last one for Charleyboy
and his mighty quill,
knowing that we’ll end up tucked on shelves
but never great,
just dust in the swollen stacks
of Mister Dickens.

But treasure the sunlight on this day,
worship the brilliant beer in the glass,
each second he told us
is precious.

He is modern in his self.
He is a star.



BLUES FOR HENK

The day opens its doors to set a poem loose,
the sun beats hard on the skin of the sluice.
A passing bridge blinks to let a boat break through,
it’s time to leave English and sing something new.

From Lauwersee to Dollard
and from Drenthe to the Wad,
I follow a passing seagull’s cry
and teach my father’s voice to sigh:

Vivace la flambardo
Fugere le mansardo
Parforce la Camargo
a doso kwatrupardo

Monete penicardo
Pericula san pardo
Finate par retardo
Etcetera ce fardo (H.N.Werkman)*

Another night sleepless in Hotel Simplon,
the creaking bedhead and the simpletons.
Shot bolt awake by the drill of the dawn,
who cares what these unswept streets will spawn?

We’re walking the lanes that Hendrik Werkman dredged,
chipping the gems from the pavement’s edge.
Past a man fishing, heron stood by his side,
to the dark Huis de Beurs where all hope has died.

This Groningen wind belts poems in my face,
I’d trade in old guilders to buy out of this place;
my brain’s pickled with Duvals,
and there’s blood on the walls.

Oh to die in the trash of this town,
ode-money tumbling from pockets of time.
Think I’ll whistle a tune straight from home,
and slash the pale wrist of my very last poem.

Last night I put a piper to bed,
music dripped from his heart and his worn fingers bled.
And I couldn’t get that woman out of my dreams,
and I couldn’t hear my dreams for her screams.

So the day leaps to life and a hymn springs to mind,
I’m just a poor down-and-out hoarding words that I find.
Drunk conversations swim round in the bowl,
I’m drowning with language this lonely old soul:

Vivace la flambardo
Fugere le mansardo
Parforce le Camargo
a doso kwatrupardo

Monete penicardo
Pericula san pardo
Finate par retardo
Etcetera ce fardo*

* Improvised verse by poet and graphic artist Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945)




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 2017.
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.

the jingling geordie

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