JINGLING ALONG!

JINGLING ALONG!

27.5.16

CHARLIE ST GEORGE'S BAR, LIMERICK, IRELAND









































FOR ROBERT MY GOOD FRIEND


Solidarity
was the word I was looking for
down the lanes of Temple Bar
between the tourist spots
and the poetry slots of all Ireland.
And at last I found it
in Charlie St George’s bar
clashing glasses of Guinness with you
Robert my good friend,
blessing the magical days
when we were born
to share our dribbling verses,
our hard-earned lines,
between ourselves
but above all with others
of our gentle persuasion
whether here in Limerick’s rain-soaked lanes
with Richard Harris
or in Newcastle’s Bridge Hotel
with William Blake
over the cobbles of our dreams
to airport lounges
and soaring planes,
just anywhere at all
to fly our poems.
For this I thank you Robert,
for staying with me,
for offering strong friendship
when all the world is falling apart around us.
Let us celebrate love again
in a pint of plain
and poetry in our memorable smiles
this day by the glorious Shannon
and in the sunlight of the River Tyne.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

23.5.16

THE MONTH OF THE ASPARAGUS






















 





It was the month of the asparagus

and you kissed me by the river

with the rain flowing down your face.

It was the day you burst 

like a volcano,

gushing all over me

as we ran

down Neckargasse,

exulting

in the sky weeping all over us

and in the laughter of children

splashing in the damp raging day.



It was the month of the asparagus

when our dreams landed

through the attic window of Lange Gasse 18.

It was the day my heart rang

with all the bells of Tuebingen

and my bones ached

with the weight of memory,

the sad loss,

hanging over us

a mountainous cloud of longing,

full with the tangy moisture

of new songs and poems.



It was the month of the asparagus

when I zoomed in to meet you

with my arms open to the grand afternoon.

O what a day

when I came again to see you 

with my heart heavy,

riddled with the seeds

of creative delight and the light

of a stream of wondrous moments

pouring,

the length of Wilhelmstrasse,

into the very realms of hope.











19.5.16

ERIK SATIE’S RAGTIME DADA



 






































(inspired by Kurt Schwitters’ & Theo Van Doesberg’s ‘Little Dada Soiree’, 1925)

At the Black Cat Cabaret,
you raved the night away:
Eric Alfred Leslie Satie,
Pride of Honfleur,
Rider of Montmartre.

And Suzanne Valadon was your one real flame
burning under your seven velvet corduroy suits.
In Arcueil, at 22 Rue Cauchy,
you had them stashed away;
parading twenty kilometres each day
to and from the bars of Paris.

This ‘Velvet Gentleman’ changed
to bowler, black suit and umbrella;
a troubadour of magic songs,
Cubist of poverty and despair:
Burlesque Bolshevik,
Parisienne Poser,
Pleuratric Palatic,
Cirrhotic Symphonist,
Wishful Winker,
Fisticuffed Fantasist,
Sloshed Sailor
of glorious dreams
on this earthly, earthy Earth.

Erik Satie’s Ragtime Dada
dancing with a swaggering Wit:
‘Monsieur le Pauvre’,
lazy, mystical, prole,
rich with the slaver
of musical clouds,
the starstruck nights of the Middle Ages,
notes flying out
of cages.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

18.5.16

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



12.5.16

THE BIRD WOMAN OF WHITLEY BAY






















Photo by Tony Whittle 















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

7.5.16

TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING




 





























The partnership with County Durham and the City of Tuebingen in South Germany was established in 1969. 
Poet Doctor Keith Armstrong, who gained his doctorate at the University on Durham in 2007, following on from Bachelor's and Master's degrees there, first visited Tuebingen in November 1987, with the support of the County Council and the Kulturamt in Tuebingen, to give readings and talks there for a period of a month. Since then he has travelled to the city over 30 times and helped arrange for Durham poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.

A special celebration of the literary/arts links between the cultural partners was held on May 17th 2015 at Tuebingen’s Club Voltaire as part of the Tuebingen Buecherfest.  This was arranged by poet Tibor Schneider, Michael Raffel of the Buecherfest and Doctor Armstrong. Those featured included Gary Miller, singer/songwriter from Durham band ‘The Whisky Priests’, poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers,  Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek and Tibor Schneider and rock musician Juergen Sturm with Mary Jane.

Tuebingen poets Anna Fedorova and Yannick Lengkeek came to Durham from 11th to 14th November 2015 for readings and discussions.

And Keith Armstrong will return to Tuebingen in September 2016 for readings of his many poems inspired by his visits to Tuebingen over the years. A film will also be made of the readings at several locations around the city.

Keith was also in Tuebingen from Tuesday 11th November 2014 to Saturday 15th when he performed his poetry in the legendary Heckenhauer’s Bookshop, one of his favourite bars The Boulanger, at the Carlo-Schmid-Gymnasium (school) and at Weinhaus Beck for a poetry breakfast. He was joined by Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Yannick Lengkeek and Anna Fedorova with Peter Weiss on accordion and Juergen Sturm on rock guitar and vocals.

Before this, he was in Tuebingen from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday 5th April 2014 with artist/photographer Peter Dixon for readings with Tuebingen writers Eva Christina Zeller, Sara Hauser, Tibor Schneider and Florian Neuner at Weinhaus Beck, a school visit and other networking initiatives. This followed on from his visit from Monday 4th November to Thursday 7th 2013 when he took part in a major symposium on the theme of writer Hermann Hesse who lived and worked in Tuebingen from 1895-1899. As well as joining in with the discussions and giving a reading from his poems on Hesse and Tuebingen, Keith met with poets, academics, teachers, musicians, cultural and media workers. 

Sara Hauser visited Durham from Monday 12th to Thursday 15th May 2014 for sessions at the University's English and German Departments  and meetings with local writers, artists and musicians.
So the twinning continues to go from strength to strength. Looking back on things, Armstrong and folk rock musician Gary Miller, lead singer of Durham band the Whisky Priests, travelled to Tuebingen at the end of March 2012 for performances in pubs, cabaret venues and schools where they performed with Tuebingen poet Tibor Schneider who visited Durham in October of that year as part of the ongoing exchange.
Tibor joined his Durham counterparts for readings at Durham University and at the Half Moon Inn. He was also interviewed on BBC Radio Tees concerning his Durham visit.

Keith Armstrong and Gary Miller returned the compliment with a trip to Tuebingen in March 2013 where they performed again in bars, cafes and schools with poets Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser and Tuebingen musicians.
In 2011, Tuebingen rock musician Juergen Sturm jetted in with his music partner Mary Jane at the end of October for pub gigs, including a twinning event in Durham on Monday 31st October featuring Juergen and Mary Jane with Durham folk musicians and poets. That followed on from a visit to Tuebingen in South Germany in early April 2011 by Keith Armstrong and photographer/artist Peter Dixon. The intrepid pair worked together on a touring display featuring Armstrong's poems and Dixon's photographs documenting the unique link between Tuebingen and Durham which was staged initially in the Durham Room at County Hall, Durham in November. Armstrong performed his poetry in cafes, bars and schools and met up with Tuebingen friends, old and new, with the multi-talented Dixon capturing all of it on film.

This trip reciprocated a visit to Durham in November 2010 by Tuebingen poets Henning Ziebritzki and Carolyn Murphey Melchers, when Juergen Stuerm also took part in a series of pub performances. There was a special event at Clayport Library, Durham City on Monday November 1st with the Tuebingen poets and special guests from Durham, followed by a rousing session in the Dun Cow when Juergen, with Mary Jane, and his Durham counterparts, Gary Miller and Marie Little belted out their lively songs.
Armstrong was also in Tuebingen in May 2010 with Gary Miller for performances in his favourite Tuebingen bar ‘The Boulanger’ and at a local school. This followed a special guest appearance in 2009 at the biannual Book Festival, a reading with Tuebingen counterpart Eva Christina Zeller and a visit to local schools. Eva visited Durham for readings in schools and at a special event on May 13th 2009 at Clayport Library which also featured poets Katrina Porteous, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, and William Martin, as well as Doctor Armstrong and music from the Durham Scratch Choir and Andy Jackson.

A highly successful series of events were held in 2007 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the literary/arts twinning established by Keith Armstrong when he first visited Tuebingen in 1987 for a month’s residency, supported by Durham County Council and Tuebingen’s Kulturamt. Since then, there have been readings and performances in pubs, universities and castles, schools, libraries, book festivals, jazz and cabaret clubs, even in Hermann Hesse’s old apartment, involving poets, writers, teachers and musicians from the twin partnerships of Durham and Tuebingen.
Tuebingen’s music duo Acoustic Storm, poet/translator Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Cultural Officer visited Durham and the North East in October/November 2007. The musicians performed in Durham schools and pubs and there was a special evening in Durham’s Clayport Library to celebrate the twinning, with Keith Armstrong launching his new Tuebingen poetry booklet and performances by poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Katrina Porteous, William Martin, Michael Standen, Ian Horn, Cynthia Fuller, Hugh Doyle and musicians Acoustic Storm, Marie Little and Gary Miller. Margit Aldinger of the Kulturamt in Tuebingen and Brian Stobie of the International Department, Durham County Council, also addressed the audience.

For the record, here's a list of those who have made it happen so far:

Tuebingen visitors to Durham since 1987:

Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Karin Miedler, Gerhard Oberlin, Uwe Kolbe, Johannes Bauer, Eva Christina Zeller, Simone Mittmann, Florian Werner, Juergen Sturm, Mary Jane, Wolf Abromeit, Christopher Harvie, Eberhard Bort, Marcus Hammerschmitt, Henning Ziebritzki, Andy and Alessandra Fazion Marx, Otto Buchegger, Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek.
Durham visitors to Tuebingen since 1987:
Keith Armstrong, Michael Standen, Julia Darling, Andy Jackson, Fiona MacPherson, Katrina Porteous, Marie Little, Ian Horn, Alan C. Brown, Linda France, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, Margaret Wilkinson, Jez Lowe, Jack Routledge, Gary Miller, Matthew Burge, David Stead, Hugh Doyle, Peter Dixon.

The literaryr/arts exchange has been supported by Tuebingen’s Kulturamt and Durham County Council.


FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL. 0191 2529531.

6.5.16

THE MUELLER GIRLS





































(for Andy Marx)

It’s a lonely day
in Tuebingen.
I’m floating in insecurity
along the Neckar,
riddled with last night’s schnapps.
Not knowing
where the hell
I’m headed,
I need a lady’s touch
just there,
where it matters.
That’s why
I’m homing in on Bismarkstrasse
to that scarlet house
where the Mueller Girls wait
to lick my brains 
a little better
than anyone else will 
this afternoon,
feeding my appetite
for breath
and lust
for that special feeling.
This minute I wish 
to be surrounded 
by girls,
for them to make me warm
and hold my dreams
in their strong arms.

Coming to Tuebingen
has become a habit
as natural as drinking;
I know just where to sit
in the Boulanger bar,
just where to drown
and just where to float
and drift.
Drink helps me
to alter my mind,
to raise and lift my spirits.
But it’s not the same
as Monika
lifting her skirt
and raising me up
on her massive bed.

And so 
we rock on
in this Swabian storm,
breathless
and shaky
as Hoelderlin’s hands.
I am lying 
with my head 
in her thighs
and only now
am I feeling alive.
She
is helping me
finish 
this poem.
It’s a long one
and needs to be shaped
into action.
She whispers crazy words
into my left ear
because I am left handed
and need her to tell me
just what to write
on these sheets
I caress
with a lyric touch.
She pampers my mind
with fresh ideas,
hot thoughts.
When other folk
are at their work,
this juicy text
drips 
from her tongue.
She licks all 
my poetry books
and comes to me
down Lange Gasse
in her boots
and stockings
from another century.
I go upstairs,
along the path
to the hottest girls in town,
to a golden shower
running 
with river water.

Open my mind
you can find 
sweet fantasies in there,
smuggled through Customs,
drenched with alcohol
and knowledge.
What do you say
to a Market Place massage,
a walk
through the park
with a lovely girl
whose hair is wild?

This life is limitless.
We must explore
the dirty lanes
behind Town Halls,
the balls
of light
in the graveyard of poets,
tongues
playing wildly,
this unforgettable hour,
kissing away
life.




KEITH ARMSTRONG


the jingling geordie

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