JINGLE ON MY SON!

JINGLE ON MY SON!
A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)

26.5.20

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




I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE FORTH BRIDGE


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

23.5.20

KELSEY GRAMMER AND ME

























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

 

Robert Lonsdale - You have expertly captured for posterity an hour long conversation that did not cease until the rotating carousel where the Buckie man continued on his way chuffed to have met a famous international poet and where a splendid two days of poetry in the Emerald Isle came to a close but to be resumed. Nice one Doctor.

21.5.20

DOWN MEMORY LANE IN THE LOCKDOWN!


19.5.20

A PRAYER FOR THE LONERS
































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.

Mo Shevis Another powerful poem Keith! The photograph is heartbreaking too! Sad for the victims, angry about the system! One of my favourites of yours Keith, read it at a couple of my poetry group meetings, they loved it too.


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.


Toon van den Boogaard  It touches me right in my heart. Every single time.
One of my favourite poems.
Great stuff Keith.

C a r o l   M c G u i g a n   T r u t h f u l   a n d   b e a u t i f u l   p o r t r a y a l  K e i t h .   C o m p a s s i o n a t e   p o e t r y.

Robert Lonsdale Always loved this poem Keith, excellent.
      
 D o r y   D i c k s o n   b e a u t i f u l l y   e x p r e s s e d   

K e i t h .   T h a n k  y o u.  x

 F i o n a   F i n d e n   W o w   K eith t h   w h a t   l i n e s .
 W o r d s   w i t h   p o w e r   a n d   i m p a c t.   

T h a n k   y o u.

D o n a l   T h u r l o w   L o v e   t h i s !

Jonathan Ouessem Stanley Beautiful poem Keith love to you and all the Family.

John Leslie A powerful and heartfelt poem. Thanks.

Mark Miller Wonderful.

17.5.20

THE BIRD WOMAN OF WHITLEY BAY







































She is out feeding the birds,
on the dot again,
in the drizzle of a seaside morning;
the seed 
cast fom her hand
to the jerking beak of a cock pheasant.

She is alone 
in a flock of dark starlings,
scattering crumbs to make them shriek.

She is a friend of spuggies,
gives blackbirds water.

Her eyes fly across the garden
to catch a quick robin,
to spot a wee wren,
to chase a bold magpie.

She is innocence,
she is a lovely old lady;
still giving,
still nursing.

She deserves heaven,
she deserves a beautiful nest
to dream out her last hours 
in bird song;
in the rich colours of music,
in the red feathers of sunset,
she is my mother,
she is a rare bird
who fed me beautiful dreams.

Thank you for letting me climb 
with the skylarks.

Thank you
for the strength of wings. 




KEITH ARMSTRONG









































 




Thank you very much for this poem. Ever since I have heard you reading it out at “Poems, Prose, Pints” it has been on my mind – it’s written in such a gentle and honest voice. The poem may be dedicated to your mum, but, as you said in the pub, it’s something you could say about all mums. I certainly feel reminded of my own mother, who died not so long ago, when I read the poem.
Love
Brigitte

Hi Keith

Thanks for this beautiful poem.

Tim G

Dear Keith ! Thank you very much. You read this poem when you were here in Groningen. It moves me each time I read or hear it. Nice talking to you on the phone yesterday. All the best, yours, Henk

Thanks Keith - you moved me.

All best
Chrissie

The Bird Woman of Whitley is a lovely poem, Keith.  Beautiful tribute.

Trish.

You amazing poet YOU
- thank you for that that poem - it deserves a very good moment, but I will translate it.
Uwe

Lovely poem!
Keep sending them!

Julie

Good poem, Keith
Cheers
SallyE

Thank you, Keith, thank you –
 For bringing a fulsome tear to my eye with the sad and beautifully-crafted The Bird Woman of Whitley. How amazingly coincidental and serendipitous that you should have numbered me amongst those privileged to receive it because, just this afternoon, I have put in the post to you my Christmas book (in Irish) An Nollaig sa Naigín (Christmas in the Noggin [my homeplace]), which has in it the story Céad Sneachta na Nollag (First Christmas Snow), which features my own mother feeding two birds, they being the Robin and the Wren!!!!
 Bravo, my friend, and thank you for giving me the delight of reading so beautiful a poem.


Thats a nice poem Keith. Is that lady really your mum?


Mick

Thanks for sending me this beautiful poem. It really moved me. I have a special Mother too, she hasn't a selfish thought in her body. 

Cheers
Catherine Graham

Hi Keith loved the poem

Mike

Thanks for your beautiful poem Keith. I must write something special to my mum. 

Paul

15.5.20

I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE






































I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE


sing of my home city
sing of a true geordie heart
sing of a river swell in me
sing of a sea of the canny
sing of the newcastle day

sing of a history of poetry
sing of the pudding chare rain
sing of the puddles and clarts
sing of the bodies of sailors
sing of the golden sea

sing of our childrens’ laughter
sing of the boats in our eyes
sing of the bridges in sunshine
sing of the fish in the tyne
sing of the lost yards and the pits

sing of the high level railway
sing of the love in my face
sing of the garths and the castle
sing of the screaming lasses
sing of the sad on the side

sing of the battles’ remains
sing of the walls round our dreams
sing of the scribblers and dribblers
sing of the scratchers of livings
sing of the quayside night

sing of the kicks and the kisses
sing of the strays and the chancers
sing of the swiggers of ale
sing of the hammer of memory
sing of the welders’ revenge

sing of a battered townscape
sing of a song underground
sing of a powerless wasteland
sing of a buried bard
sing of the bones of tom spence

sing of the cocky bastards
sing of a black and white tide
sing of the ferry boat leaving
sing of cathedral bells crying
sing of the tyneside skies

sing of my mother and father
sing of my sister’s kindness
sing of the hope in my stride
sing of a people’s passion
sing of the strength of the wind


KEITH ARMSTRONG
(as featured on BBC Radio 4)

14.5.20

OUR SPITTAL - POEMS: KEITH ARMSTRONG PHOTOS: TONY WHITTLE



























































OUR SPITTAL


Tammy Spence he had no sense,
he bought a fiddle for eighteen pence
and all the tunes that he could play
was ‘O’er the Hills and Far Away’.






From Cow Road to Hud’s Head,
Toppye Knowe Stone and Spittal Point,
we have dredged the coal
and snapped up fish
with ‘Lovely Polly’ and all.
We have ground the corn and bone,
found the iron and cured and smoked.
We have worshipped Bart and lifeboats
and prayed to Paul and John.
We have staggered on in rain and nonconformity.
We have lurched along old shores,
drowned the thirst of sailors
with the rattling old Town Bell and the tunes of jolly Jack,
whistled and fiddled away
in the bright Red Lion light.
Jesus Light of the World,
we are the history in the barrel,
in the soaring wind
and in the foaming waves:
it is our blood,
it is our bread,
it is our Spittal,
our mirrored past.


TALES OF SPITTAL

This small space
for tall tales,
the leprous tongues of centuries,
hospitalised gossips,
words drifting out of ward windows
on a dripping wet afternoon.
Church reduced to a hung silence,
closed hearts
ready for a drink.
And there’s this man
like a tea leaf in the corners
of the Blenheim or the Red Lion or The Albion.
He’s gagging for a chat about the old days,
it’s on the lips of driftwood,
swirling in the blown down days.
Tug the fruit machine,
wallop down a pie-eyed dream.
The ghosts of Victorian ladies
hiss along the promenade
as we are hit in the face
with sepia breezes.
They come from North Sea places
and from Kelso,
Selkirk and Hawick,
they ripple the surface of the sea
and the leaves in the border forests.
Take the ancient waters,
sips of iron and sulphur,
bathe yourself in history and grime.
Pellets of sleet,
hail a watery charabanc drive,
run a hot bath
down the prom prom prom.
And let the keen and callous wind
whip up the skirts of the Tweedside girls,
so you can dance for your lives.
We are the Spittal folk,
the old Pierrots,
our songs are shattered
on ancient rocks.
Our children skip through the clutter of news.
Bless them,
bless young hearts.
Splash in Bishop’s Water,
in fishing places,
songs of herring and of salmon.
Spittal Rovers
sing again.
Leap for breath
in the ways of Spring.
 


RICHARD MENDHAM’S SPITTAL TIPPLE
 

Yon tippling illiterate Spittaler,
that smuggler of drunkenness,
thief and copier of the night.
Across the lines of sobriety,
you lurched,
carving a living
from rich streams
of whisky.
Dodging water bailiffs across rooftops,
creeping down trap stairs,
you and your gang
of fleetfooted drunks
shifted illicit dreams.
Eyes glinting in hidie-holes,
disguised in black cloth and gowns,
you sparked like bar-flies in the dark.
Dancing round brightly,
skipping school lightly,
laughed in your dens of warm cackle.
Shook the village with laughter,
gave the rude sign to Berwick,
pranced till they caught you,
hung you high
from your rafter
for daring to test
the stone-sober law.

*Richard Mendham - 1830s Spittal smuggler and counterfeiter who was tried and executed at Jedburgh in the presence of Sir Walter Scott, Sheriff of Selkirkshire.


DRINKING IN SPITTAL
 

See me fall out of The Elephant bar,
where I’ve been drinking with salmon.
Spittal foaming from my open mouth.
Lame, maimed, drunken,
dissolute, boisterous and poor,
I have become intoxicated by parties of pleasure.
I have strayed from the Holy Island to Brandy Well,
become awash in luggers of boozers,
staggering on smugglers’ sand.
Gin, brandy, tobacco and silk,
let me cleanse myself in the morning light,
take the clean waters of Jesus.
Walk to the Hallowstell,
past the lepers’ huts,
for drops of holy blood,
strip away with bare hands
this ugly scorbutic humour.
Clean the beaches,
clean Spittal,
clean my weary soul.
I will launch myself
into a seawater bath
and blow hot and cold
with the seasoning.
Calybeate waters of Spittal,
salts of pure iron,
you have me
chained to your heavy drinking cup.
Let my lovely heart sing
with children and larks.
Let me go plodging
in daffodils.


GIRL IN A SPITTAL WINDOW
 

Glancing moment,
chance look.

I was wondering
where to go,
what to do
in the seaside fret.
I am growing 
misty with dreams:
welcome to my Spittal World.
I am little in this universe,
the sun is falling,
the stars are poised.
The window cleaner
will come in the morning
and wipe yesterday
away.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


































The coastal scenery around Berwick is very fine, with rocks and cliffs, only occasionally interrupted by small bays and harbours. The nearest bathing beach to the town is in the little seaside resort of Spittal, to the south.



'I was very impressed by the picture you and Tony created of Spittal.

It struck me that it was in the very best traditions of photo-journalism -
Picture Post recreated for the electronic age. I thought images and text 
showed great respect and sensibility.'


JOHN MAPPLEBECK (Bewick Films)

12.5.20

THOSE BALD BARBER BLUES





























Bald Barber’s going to carve up your fantasies,
Bald Barber has you down for the chop.
He’s jealous of your haircut,
He wants your lovely locks.
Bald Barber is up to trimming your love,
Bald Barber is at your ear.
He’s covetous of your flowing dreams,
He needs to tie your feelings up.
Bald Barber is afraid of your stare.
Bald Barber is in your way.
He’s trampling on your curls.
He’s touching your mutton chop burns.
Bald Barber is seeking your waves,
Bald Barber isn’t keen on your looks.
He wants your hair in his eyes,
He’d love to comb it like you.
Bald Barber is fed up to the skin,
Bald Barber has his eye on you.
He aims to make a splash,
He’s going to cramp your style.
Bald Barber will nab your crown,
Bald Barber wants to scissor you up.
He’s dying to swim in your stream,
He’s after that long last parting.
Bald Barber is giving you the snip,
Bald Barber’s got a tip.
He’s found something for the weekend,
He’s cut you out of your will.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

11.5.20

LIVING DANGEROUSLY IN GRONINGEN!
































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




KEITH ARMSTRONG



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.





KEITH ARMSTRONG



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.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


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.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


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.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


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.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG
 

the jingling geordie

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