JINGLE ON MY SON!

JINGLE ON MY SON!

16.11.18

TRAGEDY AND BLISS







 






















Riding on a stream
into Tuebingen,
severing the veins of clouds in my mind,
soaring over the little tragedies
in every single house,
ready to touch the agony again
rising from creaking floorboards
and worn-out lanes,
plastic shops
and poetic sewers.

What really is the point
of getting out of my tossing bed,
squirming through a vice-tight Security,
carrying a soiled and fraying bundle of poems
to give out via my nagging tongue to friends (and enemies);
donations to charity,
lines wishing for better days
and an end to the self-inflicted pain
we humans saddle ourselves with.

Off the plane,
I walk boldly through the jetsam
following the sun
to find a miracle of positive light
on a gleaming Weinhaus table.

Gruss Got!

It is then,
facing the rays of the new morning,
that I feel the creativity surge in my agitated bones again;
the gift of a poem from an unknown Warrior God,
liquid refreshment from a statue of Neptune,
out of place in the Marketplace,
looking for hope in a Googled world of despair.

Tell me yon Swabian chap striding past me,
someone whose handshake I’ll never know or care to,
do they call you ‘Knulp’?
And where do you think you are going
with those ashes in your overcoat pocket?
Down below to a slaughterhouse cell
or, screaming with bats, into a clanging belfry?

And yet you know I wish you well in your water,
I wish you fins and wings,
the chance to fly
with a Gypsy Moth

out of tragedy
to a little bliss
in the City of Tuebingen.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

11.11.18

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS



The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.


KEITH ARMSTRONG




Michael CallaghanAbsolutely brilliant Keith!

Conrad Atkinson: Another gem Keith Best Conrad 

1.11.18

ALNWICKDOTE































These rough stones,
carried for miles to build
such a Castle,
mounted on fields
of bitter sweet slopes.

Stoned lions,
countrified gargoyles
hunch, unpouncing;
their stiff glares fixed
on us fee paying visitors,
taking a stroll through
the dusty chapters,
the library dungeons.

And I would suppose
this afternoon to be,
for us, some piece of history,
both strolling through
crisis after crisis,
hearts beating heart beats
and blood warm, flowing
through us as we walk between
such cold walls,
older than a Duke,
but never as wise as this love of mine
nor as fragile as
that historic moment inside the Castle
when once you smiled at me
so wonderfully.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

(published in From Both Sides of Hadrian’s Wall,
Contemporary poetry from south Scotland and north England)

29.10.18

AFTER THE UK










































 
 
 
Shreds of the UK
flapping in the downturn,
decayed Britain
broken into smithereens.
No Kingdom now,
no United State.
We are
citizens
with no obligation
to genuflect
in front of an overstuffed Queen.

Get the UK out of your system,
no going back.
We take the power
to rule ourselves,
make community,
build our own spaces.
Break
the hegemony
of dead parties,
lifeless institutions,
let debate flower,
conflicting views rage.

We want to breathe
and strip away
executive power,
share
the beauty and culture
of these islands
around.
Make good things,
good love.
Empower ourselves
with an autonomous freedom
in a new England,
in a new Europe,
in a New World
of real ownership
and delicate emotion.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

27.10.18

HEXHAM RIOT 1761








































In 1761 a new Militia Act came into force. Strangely it managed to arouse strong negative feelings in both ordinary working people and the ruling class: the former because a ballot system of recruitment - essentially conscription - was resented; the latter as training the masses to use weapons was felt to be dangerous for the future, priming them for revolution.
On March 9th 1761 a large crowd gathered in Hexham Market Place to protest about the ballot system, some putting the numbers as high as 5000, though a few hundred is more likely. For several hours the leaders of the protest talked with the magistrates, remonstrating about the imposition. Those magistrates feared violence, and brought in a force of the North Yorks Militia as protection against a mob attack. Their presence, however, probably further enflamed tempers.
Eventually the magistrates lost patience, and the Riot Act was read. As the crowd turned uglier, the soldiers fixed bayonets. The mob, by now its fierier members armed with tools and staves, charged. Two soldiers were killed with guns grabbed from them or their comrades, then a volley or far more probably a series of volleys was fired into the rioters. When the smoke cleared at least 50 were dead, including the two soldiers. Another 300 or more were injured, some of them dying later of their wounds. Among the dead were two pregnant women.
A hunt went on over the next few weeks for anyone known to have participated in the riot, taking in not just Hexham but the settlements around it, the list of casualties showing people from Corbridge, Slayley, Stamfordham and Ryall among many others had been involved. Unsurprisingly the North Yorks Militia earned the sobriquet The Hexham Butchers after the event.





TUESDAY MARCH 10TH 1761


‘The Market Place was a tragic sight. Bodies of the dead and wounded lay scattered. The ground was stained with blood and the cries of the wounded were pitiful. The following day it rained, washing away the traces.’


Wash away the day,
wash the pain away,
sweep the remains of yesterday
into the racing river.
Beat the Dead March,
bang the old drum,
heal Hexham’s bust bones
and cry me a river,
cry the Water of Tyne.
Wash away the day
and wash this pain away.


 

A PITMAN DEAD


With blood gushing out of his boot tops,
a well-dressed man
leaves town
along Priestpopple.
Thirteen men lie inside the Abbey,
not owned.
Numbers are found dead upon the roads.
Big with child, Sarah Carter shot,
the musket ball found in the child’s belly.
Thrice into a man’s body
lying at James Charlton’s shop door
it’s said they ran theIr bayonets;
and a pitman dead,
a weaver:
all those broken days of history,
all the slain hours in our diaries.
Sound the Abbey’s bells!
Let them toll the severed minutes.
Let them celebrate
the end of torture.
Let them gush
with rejoicing
for more peaceful times.



THERE’S A RIOT


These streets,
in this Heart of All England,
are swept clean of blood.
But the stains still soak our books.
Death upon death,
we turn the pages;
in between the lines,
we read about the screams,
time’s bullets
tearing flesh away.
There is terror lurking in this Market Place,
just scrape away the skin
and, deep down,
there’s a Riot:
a commotion boiling
a terrible turbulence,
a throbbing pain.
It is a Riot of gore,
a torrential downpour
of weeping:
a seeping sore
that is Hexham’s History.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

22.10.18

WILLIAM BLAKE IN THE BRIDGE HOTEL













































A few pints of Deuchars and my spirit is soaring.
The child dances out of me,
goes running down to the Tyne,
while the little man in me wrestles with a lass
and William Blake beams all his innocence in my glass.
And the old experience sweats from a castle’s bricks
as another local prophet takes a jump off the bridge.

It’s the spirit of Pat Foley and the ancient brigade
on the loose down the Quayside stairs
in a futile search,
just a step in the past,
for one last revolutionary song.

All the jars we have supped
in the hope of a change;
all the flirting and courting and chancing downstream;
all the words in the air and the luck pissed away.
It seems we oldies are running back
screaming to the Bewick days,
when a man could down a politicised quip
and craft a civilised chat
before he fed the birds
in the Churchyard.

The cultural ships are fair steaming in
but it’s all stripped of meaning -
the Councillors wade
in the shallow end.

O Blake! buy me a pint in the Bridge again,
let it shiver with sunlight
through all the stained windows,
make my wit sparkle
and my knees buckle.

Set me free of this stifling age
when the bland are back in charge.
Let us grow our golden hair wild once more
and roar like Tygers
down Dog Leap Stairs.

 



KEITH ARMSTRONG

20.10.18

DOCTOR KEITH ARMSTRONG - LIST OF PUBLICATIONS - UPDATE









Books:
Shakespeare and Company. Erdesdun Publications, Whitley Bay 1975.
Giving Blood. People's Publications, Newcastle 1977.
Pains of Class. Artery Publications, London 1982.
Love Poems. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 1984.
Dreaming North (book & LP). With Graeme Rigby. Portcullis Press, Gateshead Libraries 1986.
The Jingling Geordie: Selected Poems 1970-1990. The Common Trust & Rookbook Publications, Edinburgh 1990.
Poets' Voices. With Cynthia Fuller, Michael Standen & others. Durham County Council & Tuebingen Cultural Office, Tuebingen 1991.
The Big Meeting: A People's View of the Durham Miners' Gala. TUPS, Newcastle 1994.
The Darkness Seeping: The Chantry Chapel of Prior Rowland Leschman in Hexham Abbey. With introduction by historian
Colin Dallison & illustrations by Kathleen Sisterson. Northern Voices & Crowquill Press, Belfast 1997.
Innocent Blood: the Hexham Riot of 1761. With historian Tom Corfe. Northern Voices & Crowquill Press, Belfast 1996.
Old Dog on the Isle of Woman. Cold Maverick Press Legend Series Number 1, Sunderland 1999.
Our Village. Memories of the Durham Mining Communities. The People's History, Durham 2000.
Bless'd Millennium: The Life & Work of Thomas Spence. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2000.
The Town of Old Hexham. The People's History, Durham 2002.
Imagined Corners. Smokestack Books, Middlesbrough 2004.
Out to Sea. With artist Rolf Wojciechowski. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2004.
Sweet Heart: Erotic Verse. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2006.
Angels Playing Football: Newcastle Poems. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2006.
The Hive of Liberty:The Life & Work of Thomas Spence. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
Hermann Hesse in the Gutter: Tuebingen Poems (1987-2007). With translations by Carolyn Murphey Melchers. Northern Voices,
Whitley Bay 2007.
A Blush in Staindrop Church. Christopher Smart (1722-1771) in Durham. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2008.
Common Words & the Wandering Star: Jack Common (1903-1968). University of Sunderland Press, 2009.
From Segedunum to the Spanish City. North Tyneside's heritage in words and pictures. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2010.
Grand Times. The story of the Grand Hotel, Tynemouth. Grand Hotel, Tynemouth 2010.
The Spanish City. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2010.
The Light in the Centurion. The story of Newcastle’s historic bar. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2011.
Splinters: Poems by Keith Armstrong. Hill Salad Books (Breviary Stuff Publications), London 2011.
The Month of the Asparagus: Selected Poems by Keith Armstrong. Ward Wood Publishing, London 2011.
Still the Sea Rolls On. The Hartley Pit Calamity of 1862. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2012.
North Tyneside Steam. Northern Voices Comunity Projects, Whitley Bay 2014.
Thomas Spence: The Poor Man’s Revolutionary. With Alastair Bonnett. Breviary Stuff Publications, London 2014.
Follow the Sun. Northern Voices Commmunity Projects, Whitley Bay 2016.
The Pitman Poet of Percy Main: Joseph Skipsey. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2017.
Wallington Morning. Poems by Keith Armstrong. Wild Boar Books, Lincoln 2017.
The Wooden Dollies of North Shields. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2018.
Magazines:
Including: Revival,True Faith, Toon Talk, Red Pepper, Poetry Review, Iron, Aesthetica, The Poetry Business, The Ranfurly Review, The Penniless Press, Citizen 32, Morning Star, The Recusant, Kenaz, The New Statesman, Other Poetry, Poetry Scotland, True Faith, Dream Catcher, Episteme, Northern Echo, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Sand, North East History, North East Life, The Informer, StepAway, Northern Review, X magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ash (Oxford University Poetry Society), The Cheviot, The Galway Review, Culture Matters.
Recent anthologies:
Golden Girl. Poems on Newcastle upon Tyne. Credo, Newcastle 2001.
The Seven Deadly Sins. University of Groningen 2002.
Mein Heimliches Auge Erotic Yearbook. Konkursbuch, Tuebingen 2002.
Red Sky At Night: Socialist Poetry. Five Leaves Publications, Nottingham 2003.
War On War. Sub, Breda, 2003.
Paging Doctor Jazz. Shoestring Press, Nottingham 2004.
Microphone On. Poetry from the White House Pub. White House Press, Limerick 2005.
Paint the Sky with Stars. Re-Invention UK, Rayne 2005.
Miracle and Clockwork. Other Poetry, Durham 2005.
North by North East. Iron Press, Cullercoats 2006.
Revival. White House Poetry, Limerick 2006, 2007 & 2009.
Both Sides of Hadrian’s Wall. Selkirk Lapwing Press, Selkirk 2006.
The Wilds. Ek Zuban, Middlesbrough 2007.
Two Rivers Meet. Poetry from the Shannon and the Tyne. Revival Press, Limerick 2008.
Kemmy’s Limerick Miscellany. Limerick Writers’ Centre 2009.
Fishing and Folk. Life and Dialect on the North Sea Coast. Northumbria University Press, Newcastle upon Tyne 2008.
Emergency Verse. Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State. Caparison, Brighton 2011.
The Robin Hood Book. Verse Versus Authority. Caparison, Brighton 2012.
Anthology for a River. Danu Press, Limerick 2012.
The Blue Max Review. Rebel Poetry. Fermoy, 2012.
View from Zollernblick. Regional Perspectives in Europe. Grace Note Publications, Ochteryre 2013.
How Am I Doing For Time? Five Years of Poems, Prose and Pints. Harrogate 2014.
The Spirit of Tolpuddle. Citizen 32, Manchester 2014.
Anent. Hamish Henderson: Essays, Poems, Interviews. Gracenote Publications, Ochtertyre 2015.
More Raw Material: Work Inspired by Alan Sillitoe. Lucifer Press, Nottingham 2015.
De grote dikke hobbyrockencyclopedie. Uitgevers Passage, Groningen, 2016.
Half Moon: Poems about Pubs. Otley Word Feast Press, Otley 2016.
1916-2016, An Anthology of Reactions. Limerick Writers’ Centre, 2016.
Voices from the Cave. Revival Press, Limerick, 2017.
Word Sharing: A Literary Anthology. Kulturamt, Tuebingen, 2017.
CDs:
Bleeding Sketches. With The Whisky Priests. Whippet Records, Durham 1995.
Out to Sea. With The Ancient Mariners, Jim Mageean, Ann Sessoms. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2007.
Sound City. With Rick Taylor, Bruce Arthur, Pete Challoner, Ian Carr & Bob Fox. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
The Elvis Diaries. With Jim Nunn. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
The Poetry of Percussion. With Bruce Arthur. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2008.
Mad Martins. With Gary Miller. Whippet Records, Ferryhill 2017.
Sing a Song for Henshaw. With Chris Ormston. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2018.
Cassette:
The Pitman Poet from Percy Main:The Life & Times of Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903). North Tyneside People’s Centres 1991.


Further information: Northern Voices Community Projects, 35 Hillsden Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE25 9XF, England. Tel 0191 2529531. Email: k.armstrong643@btinternet.com

18.10.18

NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS




WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE              



COMMUNITY ACTION



Northern Voices Community Projects aims to offer a platform for the views and experiences of those people living in the North East of England who are normally denied a voice and contributes to the culture of the region through a projects, publishing and events programme which celebrates its diverse communities. Recent projects have involved a commemoration of the Hartley Pit Disaster of 1862, a touring show in Northumbrian churches, performing poetry on the beaches, working in the community of Spittal, profiling Whitley Bay's Spanish City and the Marsden Rock in South Shields, celebrating the Newcastle writer Jack Common and the Durham links of poet Christopher Smart, performing and recording with folk, pop, classical and jazz musicians and exhibiting with visual artists and photographers. Important projects have recently been carried out with North Tyneside Council, the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society, the North East Labour History Society, the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, North Tyneside Town Centres Management, Durham School and the University of Durham’s Department of English Studies.



Northern Voices Community Projects attempts to be original and innovative in its programme and to seriously engage with local people and issues.



We are interested in developing links with likeminded people and institutions, locally, nationally and internationally and in establishing specific projects of interest to Northern Voices Community Projects members and their associates by a commitment to collective action and to engaging in community action in an historical context. Recently, reciprocal links have been established with Limerick and Cork, Bradford, Liverpool, Lincoln, Sheffield, Penrith, Aberdeen and Edinburgh and there are significant international links with, for example, Groningen in The  Netherlands and Tuebingen in Germany, stretching back over twenty years. Further similar links are actively sought in order to avoid literary and publishing activity being presented in overtly institutionalised, centralised and isolated cultural ghettos.

Such links also question overly cosy notions of  'The North' and celebrate North East England's place in the world and particularly in Europe.



We offer help to local people seeking to develop a voice. This can be through community development advice; the encouragement of new writing; production and promotion of publications; readings and meetings; song-writing; recording; illustration; study and documentation.





We have organised several community arts festivals in the region and many publishing initiatives and literary events through such enterprises as Tyneside Writers' Workshop, Tyneside Poets, East Durham Writers' Workshop, Tyneside Street Press and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series.





THE FUTURE



Northern Voices Community Projects is expanding.

We want to tackle local issues like housing and the environment and encourage people in the community by offering training and development sessions to improve their skills.

In short, we want to strengthen our already impressive track record and use our expertise by working with a broad range of groups, institutions and individuals in the North East of England to help improve life chances and perspectives and to link the local with the international.



We hope that you’ll join us.







CONTACT: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS,

35 HILLSDEN ROAD, WHITLEY BAY, TYNE & WEAR NE25 9XF.



TEL: 0191 2529531  email: k.armstrong643@btinternet.com

13.10.18

TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING - FROM MARGIT ALDINGER:





TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING - FROM MARGIT ALDINGER:



  Town twinning, or city partnering, is designed to bring people together. The university towns of Tübingen and County Durham have been doing this since 1969, promoting cultural exchanges by offering financial and organisational support. Initially, the focus was on pupil exchange programmes and musical collaborations. In 1986, Keith Armstrong and Durham County Council opened a new door by suggesting writer’s exchange. This door became a swing door that has been swinging back and forth since 1987. Over the past thirty years, Keith Armstrong has been committed to ensuring that the door continues to swing in both directions. He took the first step by performing his poems in Tübingen to provide a view of the landscape and the people of its partner county in Northern England; a coal mining area experiencing a time of change, and of Britain's role in the world.

  What do guests from County Durham find in Tübingen?: a mecca for literature enthusiasts: old and new authors who share a connection with the city; the Tübingen Book Festival, students from across the globe, a poetics lecture series at the university, literary museums (Sara Hauser who was born in 1986 and who read her own work in Durham in 2014, organises literary evenings with young poets in the Hesse Cabinet), a public library in the town centre, a creative writing scene, students at the Literature and Theatre Studio who publish alternative online literature magazines, and the newly established writers’ collective, the ‘Dichterkammer’ (Chamber of poets), which is open to all and was founded and developed by several of the authors featured in the recent anthology 'Word Sharing'. A trip to Durham with the opportunity to present their own texts became an attractive prospect for them.

   The authors from Tübingen have discovered that County Durham offers many writers' workshops and publication opportunities, even for unknown authors. Keith Armstrong provided ever new venues for the guests from Tübingen: at schools throughout the county, in the main Durham library, at Durham and Newcastle Universities and, of course, also in pubs.

   Most of the authors from Durham are globetrotters who are open to experiencing Tübingen – just like their counterparts from Tübingen who are seeking to explore County Durham. Keith Armstrong has documented his particular love for Tübingen and his interest in the city’s poets, philosophers, streets, squares, buildings and history in numerous poems, some published in 2007 in his book “Hermann Hesse in the Gutter”.

    Armstrong also impresses with his performances – speaking rhythmically, almost song-like, in a standing position – winning over audiences, be it in a pub or on a poetic walk through places in the city that are featured in his work, often accompanied by a musician from County Durham, such as guitarist Gary Miller, or his friend, accordionist Peter Weiss from Tübingen. The individual performance skills of his English colleagues are every bit as developed as his own.

    We hope there will be further word sharing opportunities that can overcome any borders.



Margit Aldinger,

Kulturamt, Tuebingen.

12.10.18

NEWCASTLE: A POETIC STROLL


































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)







WILLIAM BLAKE IN THE BRIDGE HOTEL


A few pints of Deuchars and my spirit is soaring.

The child dances out of me,

goes running down to the Tyne,

while the little man in me wrestles with a lass

and William Blake beams all his innocence in my glass.

And the old experience sweats from a castle’s bricks

as another local prophet takes a jump off the bridge.



It’s the spirit of Pat Foley and the ancient brigade

on the loose down the Quayside stairs

in a futile search,

just a step in the past,

for one last revolutionary song.



All the jars we have supped

in the hope of a change;

all the flirting and courting and chancing downstream;

all the words in the air and the luck pissed away.

It seems we oldies are running back

screaming to the Bewick days,

when a man could down a politicised quip

and craft a civilised chat

before he fed the birds

in the Churchyard.



The cultural ships are fair steaming in

but it’s all stripped of meaning -

the Councillors wade

in the shallow end.



O Blake! buy me a pint in the Bridge again,

let it shiver with sunlight

through all the stained windows,

make my wit sparkle

and my knees buckle.



Set me free of this stifling age

when the bland are back in charge.

Let us grow our golden hair wild once more

and roar like Tygers

down Dog Leap Stairs.






KEITH ARMSTRONG





GRAINGER MARKET

 

(1)

A city
within a city

light cage

bazaar and blind
these swollen alleys


flow with a teeming life’s blood

Geordie  !

Swim for your life  !




(2)

this is life
the gloss and the flesh
weigh-house of passion and flame

you can get lost in this market’s amazement
but you can never lose yourself

sometimes
a sleep-walk in these grazing crowds
can feel like a stroll through your brain





 

MAUD WATSON, FLORIST





bred in a market arch

a struggle

in a city’s armpit



that flower

in your time-rough hand’s

a beautiful girl in a slum alley



all that kindness in your face



and you’re right



the time are not what they were

this England’s not what it was



flowers shrink in the crumbling vase

dusk creeps in on a cart



and Maud the sun is choking



Maud this island’s sinking



and all that sleeping sea is



the silent majority



waving









Keith Armstrong




GREY’S MONUMENT

 

Grey –
this man and his brain’s conception,
clasped in stone.
Disdainful figure
raised
on a firm dry finger;
proud-stiff
above a time-bent avenue of dwindling lights.

The Earl’s pale forehead is cool and cloudy;
unblinking,
he views us all (as we view him)
in the same old, cold, way –
through the wrong end of a battered telescope,
through the dusty lens of history.

Strip away the tinsel
and this city’s heart is stone.



Keith Armstrong





BLACK GATE


Black Gate,
an oxter of history,
reaches for me
with a stubby finger,
invites me into Old Newcastle,
its vital cast
of craggy characters,
Garth urchins,
dancing blades
and reeling lasses.
Black Gate,
I can read
the lines
on your brow,
the very grit
on your timelined walls,
the furrowed path
down the Geordie lane
where Alexander Stephenson stoops
to let me in
and the merchant Patrick Black
still trades in memories.
Once
there was a tavern
inside you,
that’s why
the bricks cackle
and the windows creak
with the crack of old ale
and the redundant patter
of publican John Pickell.
Black Gate,
you could say
my childhood is in your stones,
my mother and father figures,
my river
of drifting years,
waiting to greet me.
Hoist up your drawbridge,
in the startling chill
of a Tyne dawn,
this boy is with you
and with himself
in this home city
of old bones,
new blood
and dripping dreams.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

*The Black Gate is named after the seventeenth century merchant Patrick Black.





CASTLE KEEP


Keep,
this history by the river.
Keep,
the stairway to the past.
Keep,
the memories singing folk songs.
Keep,
the cobbles wet with blood.
Keep,
those ballads down the centuries.
Keep,
the ancient voices in your head.
Keep,
these stones alive with music.
Keep,
the wind howling in the brick.
Keep
the days that speed our lives.
Keep,
the rails to guide you there.
Keep,
the people that you meet.
Keep,
the children's faces dancing.
Keep,
the devil in your fleeting eyes.
Keep,
the bridges multiplying.
Keep,
the moon upon the Tyne.
Keep,
the flag of lovers flying.
Keep,
your feet still
Geordie hinny.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS


The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG



NEWCASTLE IS PICARDY
































 





Grainger Street hums
and bakes
in the peeling sunshine;
this walled, world weary city
adopts a certain Latin glow:
car drivers swear more brilliantly,
girls giggle louder
and trap my eyes
in the flash
of their hair.
The world is simply
passing us by.
And who cares,
in this haze
of a burning Empire?
So long as
the sunbeams 
swim
in our beer
and the roses
are blooming
in Picardy.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

the jingling geordie

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