‘Was it for nothing that the little room,
All golden in the lamplight, thrilled with golden
Laughter from hearts of friends that summer night?’ (Wilfrid Gibson)
I’m as happy as a daffodil
sunshine flows around me
with the joy of my poetry.
I am Lord Pretty Field,
a tipsy aristocrat of verse,
become full of myself
and country booze
in the Beauchamp Arms.
Under branches frothy with blossom,
I carry a torch from Northumberland
for Wilfrid Gibson
and his old mates;
my Cheviot heart
in Gloucester ciderlight.
We can only catch
a petal from the slaughter,
to ease the melancholy
of a Dymock dusk;
over the gloomy murmurs
of distant wars.
A swirling rook cries out
across St Mary’s spire
as I climb
back to my White House room
to dream of an England gone,
and a flash of whisky
For Wilfrid you are still
‘a singing star’,
drenched in balladry;
and this I know:
I will keep your little songs alive
in this Golden Room in my heart
and, in my Hexham’s market place,
rant for you
all our love
with streaming daffodils.
Posted by keith armstrong at 10:49 am
DR KEITH ARMSTRONG:
POEMS ON TUEBINGEN, DURHAM'S TWIN CITY IN SOUTH GERMANY
WITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER DIXON
POEMS ON TUEBINGEN, DURHAM'S TWIN CITY IN SOUTH GERMANY
WITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER DIXON
AN EXHIBITION IN THE DURHAM ROOM, DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL, COUNTY HALL, DURHAM
WEDNESDAY 9TH TO FRIDAY 18TH NOVEMBER 2011 9AM TO 5PM
Further information: tel 0191 2529531
Posted by keith armstrong at 1:14 pm
Please note: all poetry readings, read-rounds and workshops start at 8.30pm.
Visiting readers Keith Armstrong and Nick Toczek
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne where he has worked as a community development worker, poet,librarian and publisher, Keith Armstrong, now residing in Whitley Bay, is coordinator of the Northern Voices creative writing and community publishing project which specialises in recording the experiences of people in the North East of England. He has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He was founder
of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East,Tyneside Writers' Workshop, Tyneside Poets, East Durham Writers' Workshop, Tyneside Trade Unionists for Socialist Arts, Tyneside Street Press and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series. He has recently compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners’ Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham and the market town of Hexham. He has been a self-employed writer since 1986 and 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 regional culture in the North East of England. His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman, Poetry Review, Dream Catcher, Other Poetry, Aesthetica, Iron, Salzburg Poetry Review, X Magazine, The Poetry Business, The Recusant and Poetry Scotland, as well as in the collections The Jingling Geordie, Dreaming North,Pains of Class and Imagined Corners, on cassette, LP & CD, and on radio & TV. He has performed his poetry on several occasions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at Festivals in Aberdeen, Bradford, Cardiff, Cheltenham (twice at the Festival of Literature - with Liz Lochhead and with 'Sounds North'), Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne,
Greenwich, Lancaster, and throughout the land. In his youth, he travelled to Paris to seek out the grave of poet Charles Baudelaire and he has been making cultural pilgrimages abroad ever since. He has toured to Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, Iceland (including readings during the Cod War), Denmark, France, Germany (including readings at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel, Oldenburg, Trier and Tuebingen), Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Cuba, Jamaica and Kenya. His poetry has been translated into Dutch, German,
Russian, Italian, Icelandic and Czech. Supported by North Tyneside Council, Commissions North and Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, he recently worked with Berlin artist Rolf Wojciechowski on a text sculpture which involved readings on the beaches along the
Northumbrian coast from Marsden to Cullercoats and from Druridge Bay to Berwick. In 2007 he collaborated on the touring play "The Making of Saint Cuthbert" for which he wrote and performed his poetry including shows in local churches. He appeared again at the Hexham Abbey Festival in 2008, at the Durham Book Festival and at the Cork International Jazz Festival Fringe. Though a regionalist inspired by the landscape of his birth and its folk and musical traditions, he is very much a European and his work is much influenced by writers such as Hoelderlin, Hesse, Brecht, Baudelaire, Prevert, Esenin, and Mayakovsky. Latest publications: "Splinters" (Hill Salad Books 2011) and "The Month of the Asparagus" (Ward wood Publishing 2011).
Nick Toczek has been a fulltime writer and performer since the early seventies. He's published more than forty books and has done tens of thousands of readings of his work. He currently tours globally visiting about ten countries a year, writes for R2 magazine, and does his own weekly show on BCB Radio. He's just finished This Book Needs To Be Red, a collection of children's poems to be published by Caboodle Books, Be Very Afraid! a collection of horror poems for older children and adults which will probably be published by Macmillan, and an autobiographical prose collection, My Life Sentences, which is with publishers at present. He's now completing two collections of travel poems entitled Flights and Further Flights. Also, Britanarchy, an EP of songs recorded with Bradford band Threshold Shift was released in September 2011.
Posted by keith armstrong at 9:53 am
Join Gary Miller, Tony Morris, David Biermann, Ann Sessoms, Robert Lonsdale and Keith Armstrong in the bar of the Dun Cow, Old Elvet, Durham on Monday 31st October from 7.30 for an evening of folk music and poetry with special guests Acoustic Pastimes from Durham's twin city of Tuebingen.
Posted by keith armstrong at 8:20 am
The literary/arts twinning continues to progress with Groningen's new official City Poet Stefan Nieuwenhuis jetting in on September 6th 2011 to join Newcastle poet Keith Armstrong at a launch of Keith's new books in the presence of the Sheriff of Newcastle.
After which, Armstrong and folk musician Gary Miller appeared again in schools and cafes in Newcastle's twin city of Groningen at the end of September following on from successful appearances in 2010 where they presented their unique poems and songs in the International School, Haren Library (with a specially commissioned performance for Haren's 850th anniversary and a recital of the poems of Charles Dickens) and O'Ceallaigh's Irish Bar. During the September stay, Armstrong performed his sequence of Groningen poems, written after many visits to the city, with some settings by Miller.
A Groningen delegation made up of poets, publishers, journalists and cultural officers and headed by Councillor for Culture Jaap Dijkstra visited Newcastle in September 2008 and a special performance evening was held at the Ouseburn Boathouse with readings by the Groningen poets and their Newcastle counterparts incuding Keith Armstrong, Paul Summers and Ellen Phethean.
Successful events were also held in Newcastle in October 2007 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the literary twinning between the respective cities, including a poetry and music evening at the Bridge Hotel and a reception with the City's Lord Mayor.
The new Groningen City Poet Rense Sinkgraven took part, along with fellow Groningen poet Willem Groenewegen, and Nick J. Swarth (City Poet of Tilburg) added colour to the celebrations.
The poets were joined by twinning pioneers Professor Helen Wilcox and jazz performer Allan Wilcox (on double bass and piano) and Groningen Cultural Officer Marieke Zwaving.
Keith Armstrong led the team of Newcastle performers with fellow poets Paul Summers, Poetry Jack, Catherine Graham, Ian Horn and Mick Standen.
Armstrong first visited Groningen in 1992 with poet Julia Darling to set the ball rolling. Since then there have been readings in pubs, universities, libraries, and schools and at breakfast parties, festivals, cabaret clubs and civic centres in both cities.
For the record, here's a list of those artists who have made it happen so far:
Groningen literary/cultural visitors to Newcastle since 1992:
Rense Sinkgraven, Marieke Zwaving, Jaap Dijkstra, Tine Bethlehem, Albertina Soepboer, Tsead Bruinja, The Poets from Epibreren (Bart FM Droog, Tjitse Hofmann, Paul Jainandun Singh, Jan Klug), Sieger M. Geertsma, Ronald Ohlsen, Anneke Claus, Willem Groenewegen, Anton Scheepstra, Eric Nederkoorn, Herman Sandman, Emiel Matulewicz, Jeroen Engels, Entre'acte jazz duo (Allan Wilcox, Sina Keuning), Janny Boerma, Helen Wilcox, Henk Muda, Klaas Drenth, Emmeke Schurink-Plas, Willem Smit.
Newcastle visitors to Groningen since 1992:
Keith Armstrong, Julia Darling, The Poetry Virgins, Paul Summers, Ian Horn, Tony Whittle (photographer/musician), Ann Sessoms (Northumbrian Piper), Chris Ormston (Northumbrian Piper), Chris Hartnett (singer/songwriter), John Earl, Alan Clark (Nod), Dave Gaston, Michael Standen, Marie Little (singer), Gary Miller (singer/songwriter).
FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES, TEL. 0191 2529531.
Posted by keith armstrong at 7:57 am
FOR THOMAS BEWICK
In your precious art you are raised
delicate species fresh, alive
with every searching niche of blade,
on metalled tints of bone
in flesh, conceived.
Today, our clear eye can review
that aggregate of animals
and spreading plants which grew;
now your thoughts to Cherryburn
are our adoption.
Through sludge of field flung back
from my drag of parting feet,
crossing matted rural lands
you swept in light and shade,
a lock of trees
inside a border to engrave.
Time, eater of men and stones and landscapes,
Scarcely turns in some places. The wheel’s silence
Is held, palpable, among darkened hills.
Trees etched in black against held dusk:
No birds. No sounds; as once and now are one,
Identical, as here at Cherryburn.
We reach the house slated and washed by change.
The stench of dung and fodder under the oak beams
That rib the darkness, echo what we mean:
There is a point where time, itself extinguished,
Remembers, being darkened, what it is.
There is a point where man stops the Dark Wheel
Fixes, outside of time, a detail seem;
And this being done, years past, at Cherryburn
Figures a frail persistency in Man.
We question it, we call in question much
Eaten by fire, unscorched; the hidden hand
That makes a wall of waters where we pass.
As men have always done, against a sky of brass,
We cry aloud, and doubt it even as we touch
Beyond the real, Impalpable Reality.
Time, eater of stones and men, and all built
Up, is broken on a silence here. It rests.
Perhaps there are such places, given us
That we may see, over dark piled-up cloud
An earlier moment: candlelight of dusk;
Man’s lucid mind under astonished glass.
Alan C. Brown
The hare cried
when I took it in my arms…
before the farmer
broke its leg
and flung it back
to face his dogs again…….
And so this hare’s
engraved in memory
preserved forever running
and forever running free.
Shielded from the world
In a shrine of foliage,
The angler knots his concentration.
Intruders sense their trespass,
Retreat unseen in silent awe.
While Nature breathes in sympathy
Entirely at one with this bowed figure
Whose inward, intent thoughts
Only a Son of hers
Could so skilfully display
In fulsome, rounded lines
That draw us in to his furrowed brow
And feel the pain of this intensity.
Helen M. Pickles
Staring proudly back
with as fine an eye
As cast you there;
Caught, but not snared;
Imprisoned, but unbridled;
Your vibrancy channelled
In delicate lines,
A fleeting stance
So carelessly struck –
As forgotten by you
As the morning’s scent –
Now timelessly etched;
A life preserved
Though long since lost.
Helen M. Pickles
The random rush of nature posed
for your delicate instruments to compose
symphonies of rooks and owls and blackbirds;
a choral work as soft as still words
over which the Mute Swan glides,
floating into place, ruffled only by
the last deft cut that froze –
sharp image of an eagle’s savage claws.
Subtle hands plucked a feather
and drew its weight
exactly across a plate,
impressing down upon a page forever:
Thomas Bewick, crakes or crowns,
complex nature, simply posed.
WAITING FOR DEATH
(Thomas Bewick’s last work)
This last almost immortal now
his weak eyes plucked from time
four iron hooves almost afloat
the ribs’ thin cry what else?
A boxwood landscape cut with rain
Steeple and farm stones the blemished oak
- traces and leather trappings peel the skin
- only a horse? What is, what might have been?
With brown silk cap and scalded skull he leans
over a world turned out become the pain
each of us feels under dark threat, or worse.
Lastly a grim unyielding poise breaks through
His knife opens a mystery and stilled
the balance of his mind takes all men in.
FIVE POEMS by Keith Armstrong
(in memory of Thomas Bewick, wood engraver)
The starlings en masse
roost here now.
They blend with the dark trees
in the twilight
by Bewick's shadowy workshop.
Under the Cathedral spire,
they shriek and gossip
in the chill;
chit-chat of more weather.
I think that Thomas
you could speak to birds,
knew them as you drew their words
You coaxed them from their very eggs,
uncaged them -
let them sing on the page.
THE BROTHERLY SOCIETY
with its ‘blackguard places’,
its streetwalking ways.
They called you ‘Scotchman’
and you itched for home,
reading the Geordie papers
at the Hole-in-the-Wall.
And your heart trilled like a blackbird’s
when you rejoined your Whig mates,
putting a world to rights
in the Lion Lounge.
You were back
herding sheep in your roots,
smiling down to your boots
in that Brotherly Society
of Northumbrian cronies:
the wild fields
RETURN TO CHERRYBURN
clear of the city,
you carved your name
in dogs barks
and birds cries.
Your infant eyes
the devils in bushes
and the gods
to scratch a living.
Avoiding the faces
of strange places,
You dreamed of always
Being a boy,
A bird or a fish,
Awash in the light
Of a dark wood:
A cherry burn.
You spent your life
crafty as a fox
forging a frantic path
across the fields.
To the sound of the Pipes,
you worked your way
to a quiet glade,
a tuneful ending
to a drawn-in-day.
WALK ON, TOM BEWICK
Stride Circus Lane
and chip your signature
on the pavement of scrapes and kisses.
pass the Forth
its pleasure gardens;
throw your darts in the archery field.
skim the bowling green
and walk on water,
doff your hat to Mrs Waldie;
old scars of lanes
to the bloody gush of Westgate street;
whistle with birds
in a vicar’s garden,
let warm thoughts fly in Tyneside sun
to bless this Geordie day.
the morning hours,
Aunt Blackett and Gilbert Gray,
sing to free the world,
the Black Boy;
harmonise your mind
in a churchyard of melancholy.
Dance over the Lort Burn,
in the sun in your eyes,
flooding your workshop
with a light fantastic.
Your shoulders so proud
rub with the building girls
and lady barbers
the boats of your dreams
bridge the aching Tyne,
in the tender daylight,
longing for the healing moon;
a keelman’s fantasies
of quayside flesh
and the seething sea.
You trip along
searching for electricity and magnetism
in the inns,
with the bird catchers and canary breeders,
the dirty colliers and the harping whalers.
Walk on Tom,
of a hanging man;
let your strong heart
swell with the complex passion
of common folk.
Posted by keith armstrong at 2:56 pm