‘I’ve come to devour your mouth
and dry you off by the hair
into the seashells of daybreak.’
(Federico Garcia Lorca)

In the rotunda,
your voice lashes out at war.
on the crests of the girls,
streaming up the Esplanade.
scream under a parasol of gulls,
skimming through the fairground,
on a mission to strangle
flying fish.
Haunting poetry
in the dead ghost train,
the palms of the fortune-tellers,

Lorca in a broken-down ghost town,
scattering your petals:
Garcia up against the wall
of last night,
eyes shot;
blood from the evening sky,
dripping down an ice cream cone,
down a sweet lass’s blouse.

Saw you on the Metro, Federico,
saw you in Woolworth’s.
Saw you in the crematorium,
on Feather’s caravan site.
Saw you drown
in a sea of lyrical beauty.

like Community,
you are gone;
torn into coastal shreds.

Still shells
lips on the beach
for kissing again
for the re-launch
of childish dreams,                                                             
with candy floss                                                                                                                   
and cuckoo spit.

The Spanish City, Whitley Bay.


The days have gone;
the laughter and shrieks
blown away.
We have all grown up,
left old Catalonian dreams
and the blazing seaside bullfights.
We are dazed,
phased out.
Spaces where we courted
to make way
for the tack of tomorrow;
the hope in the sea breeze;
the distant echo of castanets
and voices scraping
in a dusty rotunda.
I remember where I kissed you,
where I lost you.
It was in Spain, wasn’t it?
Or was it down the Esplanade
on a wet Sunday in July?
Either way,
we are still
twinned with sunny Whitley Bay,
and flaming Barcelona too;
and our lives
will dance in fading photographs
from the pleasure dome,
whenever we leave home.



Here I come
through Bay Fog,
gold ring glinting
in the Park Road dark.
Seeking a North Sea fortune,
looking for a tuneful lass
to make my aching skin sing
of Wooden Dollies
and Spanish Galleons,
sailing across the old fairground
to sunnier climbs.

There’s this guy in the Rockcliffe
and he looks like a ghost.
He’s as pale as the weather
amd mist drips from his nose.
He’s an Old Waltzer,
my young Uncle Walter,
and his eyes are all talk of the War.
He did his strong courting
in an Old Spanish City
and the rose he seduced
was a Cullercoats’ flame.

Now those cold bones are ready
for the warm Crematorium:
a Memoriam to seconds flown by;
the joy of the candyfloss,
the hum of the summer,
the simmer of hamburgers,
and the hot suck of kisses dashed off.

And I am the dome of your past,
the breast of the future,
and I will hug your treasured snaps,
stick your faces in my locket
and spin you down my blouse.
For I have given you joy.
I have thrown you lifelines
and bobbing girls and boys.

And my Bay Wheel
keeps on turning.
My Big Heart
goes on burning.
My Sweet,
my sweet Streets,
my Catalon Whitley,
kiss me.
Kiss me.



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 a 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.



Dear Keith,

     Reading this latest collection of poems, I was very struck with the accuracy of Michael Standen's assessment.    Your work really does have its roots in the traditions of the Tyneside music hall.   There is that same cheeky, irreverence  in poems like the Department of Poetry and Outside Your Lonely Window that you find in the best of Joe Wilson.   It's an irreverence that has a fine edge of anger and contempt - "we may not be so happy through the day."

      Interesting that you had that in common with Jack, whose experience of the Tyneside music hall and Jimmy Learmouth, its greatest comic, inspired Kiddar's Luck.

     Obviously, I was drawn to the Common/Orwell poems, but I found other delights.     I particularly loved Old Stations your homage to the old line to Riccarton Junction - far more moving than Betjeman's efforts with similar themes.

     It's a collection of works to be proud of.


       John Mapplebeck (Bewick Films)




I fear the devilry in my poetry,
that impish urge
to home in on your fat cathedral
across all those bleak and wasted fields.
Tonight, I want
to ransack your city’s brains,
throw out pathetic gargoyles
from The Jolly Brewer,
beat up the landlord
of the Dog & Bone
with a good dose
of love poems.
I must admit
I am prone to heckle.
Bouts of doubt
infect my lines
and I am frequently inclined
to disrupt
your tedious tales;
for, unlike your buxom church,
they do not ring
with any bleeding sense of history,
just the shallow trivia
of an alien High Street,
the cloistered emptiness
of a bad poet’s soul.
Out here,
in the light of your cock spire,
I leap to twin with the Lincoln Imp
so that no choirboy
need be safe
from our wicked songs
and dodgy rhymes.
Twilight it is, and we zoom
from church to prison,
spreading our evil,
high as lords.
We set up our cheek
at terrible literary gatherings,
bloodstain the floors
of icy classrooms.
This is what imps do -
close down arts centres,
ignite recitals,
slink around alleyways
for bad girls to spank,
hurl abuse at the vicar’s cloth ears.
We imps do believe that
in Lincoln,
or any other northern dreamworld,
you might as well be totally unfeeling
as stay stone sober
in all the daytime’s lovelight.






Sensational Rock,
swimming in light.
Bird cries clinging to ancient ledges,
Kittiwakes smashing against time.
What tales you could tell.

Your face is so moody,
flickers with breezes,
crumbles in a hot afternoon.

Climbing your powdery steps,
we look down on the sea
thrashing at you.

We join a choir of birds at your peak,
cry out to the sky
in good spirits.

Nesting for the sake of it,
our lyrics are remnants on the shore.

We keep chipping away,
do we not?

We slip
through the pebbles,
with babies.

We leave our mark,
a grain
on the ancient landscape.

We go.

We dance like the sunlight
on your scarred body:








my ruined BERLIN,
where else have we been ruined as in BERLIN,
yet your ruins, BERLIN, embrace more future
than all Duesseldorf’s insurance buildings put together.
I love your mocking grin, BERLIN,
the bare facade,
all the heaped-up futility in your features,
your rage,
the exhaustion in your faces.’

(Reimar Lenz)

Bruno Winkler
has offered to ship us up river
to sniff the rust of decrepit regimes,
to smell the painted faces of fresh errors.
I run my fingers through this infected water
and taste it on my questing lips.
We slip quietly
through the back of history,
our boat creaking in the winter breeze,
cresting through despair.
There are museums and palaces of great culture,
socialist pimps and capitalist tarts.
Wash it all down
with bottles of beer from the East,
soak it in the perfume of money.
Bash through the Gates,
under the monuments of false dawns.

We must hope I suppose,
anchor our dreams
in the dust.

Please Bert,
don’t stare at us so.
We are simply doing our best.

Making the same mistakes again.
Numbing the pain
of the Spree.





In the oven of a Berlin heatwave,
this crumbling block bakes
and all the bullet holed walls
Tenements skinned bare,
they burn with anxiety, death wishes,
frustrated hopes.

From a cracked and peeling courtyard window,
a Beach Boys' track
clashes against an old woman’s ears
as she carries a bagful of bruises home.
In this rundown, sunful flat,
I am tuned in to the B.B.C. World Service –
a cricket season just beginning
and East Berlin sizzling
in a panful of history.

Senefelderstrasse 19, crawling with flies.
On top of the wardrobe, some volumes of Lenin slump,
there is dust everywhere, dust.
And all we are saying in all the sweltering
is ‘Give me a piece of the Wall.’
just ‘Give me a piece of the Wall.’

Look down onto the street –
the cobbles still stare,
the cracks in the pavement leer.
And, like every day, Frau Flugge traipses gamely along,
trying hard not to trip,
shabbily overdressed and hanging on
to the shrapnel of her past affections,
to the snapshots of her dreams.

From corner bars,
the gossip
snatches from doorways at passers by.
Inside, it is dark
and the money changes hands
burning holes in the shabby pockets
of the dour Prenzlauer Berg folk:

‘The People are strong.’
‘They can’t sit more than 4 to a table here.’
‘THEY say it’s illegal.’
‘Let’s sing!’

Amongst the clenched blossom of Ernst Thallmann Park,
‘a Workers' Paradise’,
this glassy Planetarium gleams
under an ancient East German sky;
shining huge shell of a dome,
it traps stars and opens up planets:
it is far reaching, transcending walls.
It can stir the imaginings of all the world’s children.
It is the light at the end of Senefelderstrasse.
It beckons,

And Me?
I am walking in blistered hours,
sick of the sight of money
and what it does
to all the people I love.
‘A tip for your trip!
Instead of a brick from the Wall to take home,
bring back a Bertolt Brecht poem’:

‘And I always thought; the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like,
Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds.
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself.
Surely you see that.’

Through the letterbox of Senefelderstrasse 19,
I push this poem.
And, for the last time, leave
through Checkpoint Charlie.
‘Goodbye Frau Flugge, Herr Brecht,
the trams.
My friends, I wish you
sunny days.’

Keith Armstrong
Berlin 1990


'True Berlin poetry thanks.'  (Dured Freitag) 

photos by stan gamester




My father took me piggyback
to the people's game.
I felt the surge of the Gallowgate End
beneath me
like the sea roaring
off Tynemouth.
I sensed the solidarity
of those football-mad days
and my little heart
swelled with a Magpie pride.
Black and white love
came to me early,
inherited down life's straining seasons.
The throbbing crowd
lifted me
over tough shoulders,
the passion
surging with me
to the front
where I could share
the yearning dreams
for just a little glory.
Those terraces lit up,
made the blue star glow.
We young and thirsty Geordies
learnt quickly
to get drunk
on the back
of flowing football.


Golden Boy,
I remember you
made me queue
with all the other Geordie lads
in one straight line
down the car park
for your autograph.
one by one,
you signed for us.
A Swansea son,
footballing gentleman,
all those years ago,
you impressed me
with your calm consideration:
a measured passer
of dignity
through generations.

*Ivor Allchurch (1929 -1997) played for Newcastle United 143 times between 1958 and 1962 and scored 46 goals.

(in honour of Robert "Bobby" Carmichael Mitchell, 19/7/1924-8/4/1993)

Mine Host
of the twinkling left foot,
wing-raiding Scot,
this Border Reiver
was a man of magic,
made full backs disappear.
"Dazzler" we called him,
he tied the ball to his toes,
took it for a walk.
Wor Bobby bobbing along,
criss crossing
through flat defences.
His waving hair
under the waves
of "Popular Side" crowds:
classic moments
flickering on film,
roars on a soundtrack,
Cup goals laid
on a plate.

LEN IN BLACK AND WHITE(in memory of Len White, 23/3/1930-17/6/1994)

Len White
was a hammer.
He rammed in goals
like rivets into a ship.
Len in black and white,
belter of a heavy ball,
whacker of leather bullets
with crafty head and clever feet.
Me and my old schoolmate Peter
saw you lash the Wolves,
sending a screamer
through the posts
to ignite Gallowgate
and set the Magpies chanting.
Uncapped hat-trick scorer,
153 goals merchant,
you deserve
a statue
of your own,
to the Skellow lad
who became a Geordie
and will always be.


Sun sets on Empire,
a football sinking in the sky.
Dreams are gone,
the kicks we had.
I see their ghosts in The Strawberry night:
Len White and George Eastham,
Gordon Hughes and Liam Tuohy,
Alf McMichael, Jimmy Scoular.
Roaring Boys of one hue or another:
Alan Suddick and Jim Smith,
John McGrath and Dick Keith,
Dave Hilley and Andy Penman.
Stalwart lads from an industrial past,
hold on to those memories.
Golden Balls of light
shine on the surface of The Tyne,
ripple in the mind.
Great times were had
and peanuts tanner a bag.
Swaying lads on the Popular Side,
Oxo down our throats.
Chuck us a cup,
we're thirsty.


These poems were published in the Newcastle United fanzine 'True Faith' as part of my poet-in-residence stint with the magazine.




(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.


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)

the jingling geordie

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