BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN NOVEMBER FOR TUEBINGEN/DURHAM 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH

BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN NOVEMBER FOR TUEBINGEN/DURHAM 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH

30.9.17

FOR JOE SKIPSEY: THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN (1832-1903)



 









































‘He’ll tell his tale o’er a pint of ale,
And crack his joke, and bad
Must be the heart who loveth not
To hear the Collier Lad.’ (Skipsey)


To be a pitman poet
you drag words
out of the seam of a dictionary,
write against the grain
all the time
feeling the pain
of a small education,
scribbling in the dark
for a bright spark
germ of a poem.
Hewing
for rhymes,
ducking
in case the roof
of the verse
caved in on you,
Joe
it was bloody hard
to learn,
to craft a line
from the black pit
when the whole world
weighed down on you.
A man was forced
to sing,
to render a ballad
like a lamp in the tunnel,
scraping an education
from coal,
crawling along bookshelves
to find daylight,
Shakespeare,
Shelley
and melody
in the stacks
of an underground library.




KEITH ARMSTRONG


24.9.17

THE GOLDEN ROOM

























‘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
this day;
sunshine flows around me
over fences,
leaping
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;
for Geraldine
I bear
my Cheviot heart
in Gloucester ciderlight.

We can only catch
a petal from the slaughter,
a bloom
to ease the melancholy
of a Dymock dusk;
hear laughter
over the gloomy murmurs
of distant wars.

A swirling rook cries out
across St Mary’s spire
in dialect
as I climb
back to my White House room
to dream of an England gone,
and a flash of whisky
with Abercrombie.

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
and cover
all our love
with streaming daffodils.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

21.9.17

JOSEPH SKIPSEY: PITMAN POET - GATESHEAD EVENT














































TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30pm

BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD

WEA NE History and Heritage Branch & NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903)







THE W.E.A. AND NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903) 185TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH EVENT WITH TYNESIDE LAUNCH  OF A NEW BOOK ABOUT SKIPSEY PUBLISHED BY NVCP IN ASSOCIATION WITH NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL.
FEATURING POETRY AND SONGS BY CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BOOK, TOGETHER WITH READINGS OF SKIPSEY'S OWN POEMS, INTRODUCED BY EDITORS KEITH ARMSTRONG AND PETER DIXON OF NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS WITH FOLK MUSIC BY THE SAWDUST JACKS, KEITH GREGSON AND GARY MILLER AND ALSO FEATURING ANN SESSOMS ON NORTHUMBRIAN PIPES WITH PERIOD TUNES.

TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30PM, BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD.


FOR JOE SKIPSEY: THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN (1832-1903)


‘He’ll tell his tale o’er a pint of ale,
And crack his joke, and bad
Must be the heart who loveth not
To hear the Collier Lad.’ (Skipsey)


To be a pitman poet
you drag words
out of the seam of a dictionary,
write against the grain
all the time
feeling the pain
of a small education,
scribbling in the dark
for a bright spark
germ of a poem.
Hewing
for rhymes,
ducking
in case the roof
of the verse
caved in on you,
Joe
it was bloody hard
to learn,
to craft a line
from the black pit
when the whole world
weighed down on you.
A man was forced
to sing,
to render a ballad
like a lamp in the tunnel,
scraping an education
from coal,
crawling along bookshelves
to find daylight,
Shakespeare,
Shelley
and melody
in the stacks
of an underground library.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

FOR 'CUNY' - JOHN CUNNINGHAM PASTORAL POET 1729-1773











FOR CUNY


‘Search where Ambition rag'd, with rigour steel'd;
Where Slaughter, like the rapid lightning, ran;
And say, while mem'ry weeps the blood-stain'd field,
Where lies the chief, and where the common man?’

(John Cunningham)

‘Unto thy dust, sweet Bard! adieu!
Thy hallow'd shrine I slowly leave;
Yet oft, at eve, shall Mem'ry view
The sun-beam ling'ring on thy grave.’

(David Carey)

This week an elegant tombstone, executed by Mr. Drummond of this town, was set up in St. John's church-yard to the memory of the late ingenious Mr. John Cunningham. The following is the inscription thereon:

‘Here lie the Remains of JOHN CUNNINGHAM.
Of his Excellence as a Pastoral Poet,
His Works will remain a Monument
For Ages
After this temporary Tribute of Esteem
Is in Dust forgotten.
He died in Newcastle, Sept 18, 1773,
Aged 44.’

The ritual slaughter
of traffic,
hurling itself
against the furious economy,
the commerce of suffering,
the pain of money,
nudges your bones
in this graveyard of hollow words.
I hear you liked a jar
well, here’s me 
sprinkling
your precious monument 
with a little local wine,
lubricating the flowers
that burst from your pastoral verses.

You toured the boards like me,
torn like me,
with your heart,
terrific heart,
pouring real blood on your travelling sleeve.
Oh, my God!
your lips trembled
with a delicate love
for the fleeting joy,
the melancholic haze,
the love in a mist,
that Tom Bewick sketched in you
amd Mrs Slack fed
as you passed along 
this way and that
despair in your eyes.
The fact was
you were not born
for the rat race
of letters,
the ducking and fawning
for tasteless prizes,
the empty bloated rivalry,
the thrust of their bearded egos.
You wanted wonder,
the precise touch
of the sun on your grave,
the delicious kiss
that never comes back.
I’m with you, ‘Cuny’
in this Newcastle Company of Comedians;
I’m in your clouds of drunken ways;
I twitch with you
in my poetic nervousness
along Westgate Road.
And the girls left their petals for you
like I hope they do for me
in the light of the silver moon,
thinking of your pen 
scratching stars into the dark sky.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

'In another part of the field, another field, let's
face it, sits Keith Armstrong's rakish gaff. (His)
poems are rooted in the Tyneside music hall tradition,
closely behind which was the august balladry of the
Borders. His is an unashamed bardic stance, actor
rather than commentator. His politics are personal.
Throughout the collection the authentic lyrical note
of this northern poet is struck.'  (Michael Standen,
Other Poetry).

20.9.17

CITY OF PEANUTS: JIMMY CARTER IN NEWCASTLE (MAY 6TH 1977)































Abattoir City,
streets of cattle.
Cut veins 
and horny days,
we'll have your guts
for Carter.
'Howay the Lads!',
the leaders grin
and take you in,
use your blood 
to colour carpets.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

17.9.17

DOCTOR ARMSTRONG'S TUEBINGEN POETRY TOUR!




































photos: otto buchegger & christoph melchers





GIRL IN HOLZMARKT
(for Susanne, from a photograph)

Near Heckenhauer’s snoozing bookshop,
where Hesse once shelved poems,
you are standing
frail,
arms crossed lightly
in the pouring sun.
Your fine cheekbones
in shadow,
drenched face
in thought,
you listen deeply
to the bright street-harpist
plucking music from the day.
Your hair is flowing
black in the fine afternoon;
you are obviously a thinker,
fragile as a cloud;
withdrawn you are
yet still stand out
in this basking, strolling, crowd:
I think your name is Susanne
and I see your skin is milky;
and I wonder,
twelve years on,
where you have gone.
I sense
that you’ll have babies,
they are plainly in blue eyes,
and, in that filmic moment,
you do look beautiful to me:
a precious one, you’re trapped
in this snapshot album,
delicate
in not knowing
that the wall has been
pulled down.

 

                                                                            
KEITH ARMSTRONG






WOODEN HEART: A NEW SONG IN THE MORNING FOR PHILIPP FRIEDRICH SILCHER  (1789-1860)*

Through an arch of towering plane trees,
I reach to touch the hips
of an upright Swabian girl,
her lips
fresh with strawberries
from a breakfast bowl of kisses
sprinkled with sugar
and yesterday’s cream.
The birds of the Platanenallee
fly on the wings of melancholy,
the breeze of history
scenting their songs.
It dawns on me
that the rain
will lash against our faces
as we push our way
through the saluting wood.
The day is crumbling already
around us
with the leaves memorably
crunching under our futile tread.
Half way along the soaking avenue,
the sun like a song
sparkles in my eyes
and lights my last hours
with the beauty of skies.
And suddenly
you are there
your lump of a statue
bursting though the leaves,
a kind of terrible stone
trapping your crumbling tunes
inside rock.
To take a frail life
and carve it into something immortal
is a folly as well as a tribute
to the hypocrisy of pompous little leaders
seeking to employ music
for their brutal ends.
So I say
and so we sing
of beautiful glances
and military funerals
of dead songbirds
in the path of bullets.
I climb in spirit
to reach the flesh of this lovely girl,
for a moment
I am happy and then it is gone
behind the clouds of war.
And this is for you Friedrich
from my fluttering heart
in a sea of shaking branches,
reaching out
for humanity
to triumph
over the horror
of the mundane,
a gift of a song for you,
a lovely glass of wine
as the armies march again
into the blind alley
of a bleak despair:

Can't you see
I love you?
Please don't break my heart in two,
That's not hard to do,
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.
And if you say goodbye,
Then I know that I would cry,
Maybe I would die,
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.

There's no strings upon this love of mine,
It was always you from the start.
Treat me nice,
Treat me good,
Treat me like you really should,
'Cause I'm not made of wood,
And I don't have a wooden heart.

Muss i denn, muss i denn
Zum Staedtele hinaus,
Staedtele hinaus,
Und du, mein schat, bleibst hier?

Muss i denn, muss i denn
Zum Staedtele hinaus,
Staedtele hinaus,
Und du, mein schat, bleibst hier?
(Got to go, got to go,
Got to leave this town,
Leave this town
And you, my dear, stay here?).

There’s no strings upon this love of mine,
It was always you from the start,
Sei mir gut,
Sei mir gut,
Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst,
Wie du wirklich sollst,
(Treat me nice,
Treat me good,
Treat me like you really should,
Like you really should),
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.

 


KEITH ARMSTRONG

*Swabian musician Philipp Friedrich Silcher originally composed the tune, based on a folk lyric, used in the pop song ‘Wooden Heart’. His statue by Wilhelm Julius Frick (1884-1964), erected in 1941, is in Tuebingen by the River Neckar.








UNDER THE TREE: A LULLABY IN STORMY TIMES

(in memory of Ottilie Wildermuth, 1817-1877)

In the ‘Seufzerwäldchen’ (Small Forest of Sighs), at the end of the avenue, is the memorial for the writer Ottilie Wildermuth, the only memorial in Tübingen dedicated to a woman.

Even if thunder rolls,
lightning quivers,
may my little child
fall quietly asleep......

May the little bell sound for me
a quiet peal of funeral bells
when I lay to rest
my brief happiness.



Under the tree,
reading Theory of Colours.
Under the tree,
the light in her hair.

Under the tree,
the birds bathe in dust.
Under the tree,
Otto is breathing.

Under the tree,
the bells in the sun.
Under the tree,
her eyes flash at me.

Under the tree,
her young hips sway.
Under the tree,
sipping days.

Under the tree,
news is poor.
Under the tree,
there is wine.

Under the tree,
no bullets.
Under the tree,
my heart singing.

Under the tree,
Tuebingen lives.
Under the tree,
Tuebingen groans.

Under the tree,
I see for miles.
Under the tree,
I float on the clouds.

Under the tree,
blackbird’s throbbing.
Under the tree,
love life.

Under the tree,
this poem.
Under the tree,
I can sigh.

Under the tree,
feel a moment.
Under the tree,
beauty.

Under the tree,
sense the pity.
Under the tree,
touch this city.
 

Under the tree,
find distance.
Under the tree,
miles away.

Under the tree,
thinking of you.
Under the tree,
learning Goethe.

Under the tree,
drenched in years.
Under the tree,
drunk
forever.



KEITH ARMSTRONG
 




ELEPHANTS IN TUEBINGEN


Such a postwar circus,
swill of pigs and drawn out cold war,
the bleeding never stops.
Under the straw,
the claw of a miserable history
grabs down the years
at the young who are innocent
of all the butchery and whoredom.
Imperial Germany is a fagged out colonial office,
a sweating prison
of bashed up ideals,
a broken clock
covered in ticks and leeches.

The animals have escaped
and invade the Market Place.
Elephants sup at Neptune’s old fountain,
spurt out the foam of stagnant days,
trunks curling to taste the Neckar water.

This Tuebingen is a surreal pantomime:
barmaids swing from ceilings,
policemen hang from their teeth.
Frau Binder throws them buns.

And our Max Planck is a dream inventor.
Some boffin of his crosses a peach with a tulip,
the genetics of a bayonet in a breast.
The menagerie moves on to the Castle,
a giraffe nibbles at a church.
The sun gnaws at the clouds.

Like a clown,
I leap to down beer.
And a hideously sweet lady cracks a whip
and flashes her milky thigh at me.
It is no good.
I cannot raise a glassy smile anymore.
This circus is a tragedy.
The animals are sad
and rotten
with the stink of carnage,
seeping
from your television screens.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


 

I LOVE THE LIGHT IN TUEBINGEN

I love the light
in Tuebingen
streaming down Marktgasse,
flooding in my beautiful blue eyes.

In this light,
I see
the good times
I have dwelt in here
over the bowling years:

the chemistry of Goethe,
the love of books
and poetry that sings
with the joyous swifts,
screeches with
the very pain of life.

This town
casts a glow
in me,
throws me lifelines
to write with,
fishing for ideas
in the sweeping river:

boats
of finished pamphlets
nodding at me
in the sunshine.

I love the light
in Tuebingen
streaming down Marktgasse,
flooding in my beautiful blue eyes.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

14.9.17

TAPESTRY



































tapestry

poor avenues
life rich
tapestry

warm glow
community
hope springs

pit broken
grass grows
blink bonny

clocks alarm
wake joy in us
buses sweep past

at morn
buried dreams
night sings

town in winter
frosty coats
hearts melt

come the day
me hinny
love speaks

the streets glow
in my memory
golden times

this is
my home
your honour

badges in dust
in my chest
pride

our children
sing
heal wounds

my love
black and white
cups

wansbeck
flows
red

once
my eyes
glowed

my heart
ashington
ash town

yer bugs
i’m drowning
in kisses

deliver
babies
gifts

seed
with my eyes
visions

wor jackie
bobbing
river

doon that hole
gold
nuggets

this is my place
no place
for rats

turn pages
seek liberty
in ancient books

photographs
wor lass
beautiful

bring me sunshine
light
the back lanes

kicking a ball
the walls
echo






KEITH ARMSTRONG

10.9.17

JOSEPH SKIPSEY: PITMAN POET - GATESHEAD EVENT















































TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30pm

BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD

WEA NE History and Heritage Branch & NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903)







THE W.E.A. AND NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS PRESENT:
THE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN: JOSEPH SKIPSEY (1832-1903) 185TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH EVENT WITH TYNESIDE LAUNCH  OF A NEW BOOK ABOUT SKIPSEY PUBLISHED BY NVCP IN ASSOCIATION WITH NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL.
FEATURING POETRY AND SONGS BY CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BOOK, TOGETHER WITH READINGS OF SKIPSEY'S OWN POEMS, INTRODUCED BY EDITORS KEITH ARMSTRONG AND PETER DIXON OF NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS WITH FOLK MUSIC BY THE SAWDUST JACKS AND ALSO FEATURING ANN SESSOMS ON NORTHUMBRIAN PIPES WITH PERIOD TUNES.

TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 7.30PM, BENSHAM GROVE COMMUNITY CENTRE, SIDNEY GROVE, GATESHEAD.





Dr Jude Murphy, Project Organiser (Heritage)
Part-time : working days: Tuesday to Thursday

WEA North East Region
Joseph Cowen House, 21 Portland Terrace
Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1QQ

0191 212 6125
jmurphy@wea.org.uk
www.ne.wea.org.uk

5.9.17

I HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH THE FORTH BRIDGE




Dear Mr. Armstrong,
I hope this finds you well.  I've never done this in my life - i.e. contact a writer - but felt I really had to thank you for the fabulous poem about the Forth Bridge which appeared in the Scottish Review.   It so inspired me that I wanted to hang out the window and shout it across the bay!  (I live on a wee island on the west coast.)

Not only do I also love that bridge (I spent my childhood holidays in Fife and always got so excited whenever we crossed it), but I like bridges in general (don't know what that says about me and don't care to find out!).  I'm also a Russian speaker and absolutely love Mayakovsky's great poem inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge. Yours is equally inspiring, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway - all I wanted to do was to congratulate you and say thank you for that truly marvellous poem.  It made my day reading it.

All the best,
Moira Dalgetty


http://www.scottishreview.net/KeithArmstrong61.shtml?utm_source=Sign-Up.to&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8427-288448-No+comment%3A+the+%27spokespersons%27+and+their+secrets






























































Strapping girders,
lusty arches:
the span of my ambition,
shore to shore
you link me with the old bones,
the new ways,
the true trains that take me
down the path of all my loves.
You lift up your wide arms
to take in the tide,
roll with the shaking wind
that whistles in the rushes
of the wild banks.
You thrill me with your size,
your strong embrace;
you roar with achievement,
you make me proud:
I could hug you.
Let me take the Queensferry train,
slide through you to freedom.
The pipes play
and the kilts sway
to greet us.
You are the opening,
the gap we streak through
to the woolly wilds
of Auld Reekie
and Bonnie Old Dundee;
to the sea of workers’ blood,
the red rust of the past that clings
and hugs the bones of dead engineers.
In the Albert Hotel,
tucked up, I hear you moan in the darkness.
Naked,
I pull back the curtains
and see you floodlit
in all your entrancing glory.
Shine on, shine
you crazy bridge.
You have my devotion,
you have my deepest darkest love.
I would climb you stripped;
I would feel you breathe in the Firth wind.
I give you my heart and soul,
I am frail against your depth.
You will outlive me,
do not mock me,
you are superb.
You are my outstretched lovely;
I will breathe through you,
long for you,
die for you.
Rock me,
go Forth
and inspire me.




KEITH ARMSTRONG


Peter Selgin Love this very fine poem and the bridge that inspired it

2.9.17

SONG FOR NORTHUMBERLAND BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG: NOW ON DISPLAY AT NEW YOUTH HOSTEL



My poem 'Song for Northumberland' now on permanent display, with image of Bamburgh, at new youth hostel at Bardon Mill.

1.9.17

OLD STATIONS






































(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.







KEITH ARMSTRONG




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)








(from forthcoming book and film -
written for an exhibition at Bellingham Heritage Centre, June 2013)

the jingling geordie

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