Keith Armstrong’s Open Doors
It was in The Boulanger that we first met. Where else could it have been? Keith Armstrong, it seems, knows his way about here even better than in many places between Durham in the North-East of England, Groningen in Friesland, Amiens in Picardie, Berlin in Prussia and, well, Tübingen in Württemberg (‘to name but a few’). A traveller with an open mind and without any fear of contact; strange lives, countries and people succumb to his poetic and real incorporation. This is so for the same reason for which our romantic poets sought out Heaven and every abyss: it is to understand “why I am back on Earth; must come to know myself and the land that bore me.”
It was a reading, that first time and the performer did not hide behind the customary glass of water, neither did he sit on a chair, but stood, as he always does. I have experienced it often enough by now how he explains his poems, how he reassures himself, again and again, of his audience. We are to understand every aspect and every point. If we don’t, he doubts extensively, himself, the language, the word. Then on to poem and ballad. Keith Armstrong is a bard, too, who has the knack of writing real songs. That’s why every place is named, why the names of persons he grants an appearance in verse are correct, why his poems have historical causes and sometimes take historic shape, just like the performance. Historic.
But one should, while laughing, never forget: this poet is someone who in his biography and work inseparably unites wit and long gained knowledge, enthusiasm and great talent, pluck and social commitment....This is a man who conquers, with his poems and charms, pubs as well as universities. He has always been an instigator and an actor in social and literary projects, an activist without whom the exchanges between the twin towns of Durham and Tübingen would be a much quieter affair. That he is a friend of many friends, able to open the most amazing doors for his guests, can be taken as read. Keith Armstrong’s songs of a sensitive self in an ugly world and of a beautiful world in an unfathomable self are capable of opening the hearts of listeners and readers.
Oberlin, Ohio September 2007
(translated by Eberhard Bort)
Posted by keith armstrong at 2:59 pm