JINGLE ON MY SON!

JINGLE ON MY SON!

31.8.18

THE LINCOLN IMP!

THE LINCOLN IMP

I fear the devilry in my poetry,
that impish urge
to home in on your fat cathedral
across all those bleak and wasted fields.
Tonight, I want
to ransack your city’s brains,
throw out pathetic gargoyles
from The Jolly Brewer,
beat up the landlord
of the Dog & Bone
with a good dose
of love poems.
I must admit
I am prone to heckle.
Bouts of doubt
infect my lines
and I am frequently inclined
to disrupt
your tedious tales;
for, unlike your buxom church,
they do not ring
with any bleeding sense of history,
just the shallow trivia
of an alien High Street,
the cloistered emptiness
of a bad poet’s soul.
Out here,
in the light of your cock spire,
I leap to twin with the Lincoln Imp
so that no choirboy
need be safe
from our wicked songs
and dodgy rhymes.
Twilight it is, and we zoom
from church to prison,
spreading our evil,
high as lords.
We set up our cheek
at terrible literary gatherings,
bloodstain the floors
of icy classrooms.
This is what imps do -
close down arts centres,
ignite recitals,
slink around alleyways
for bad girls to spank,
hurl abuse at the vicar’s cloth ears.
We imps do believe that
in Lincoln,
or any other northern dreamworld,
you might as well be totally unfeeling
as stay stone sober
in all the daytime’s lovelight.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

30.8.18

27.8.18

VEITCH




































 



(in memory of Colin Campbell McKechnie Veitch, 1881-1938)



‘One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven't and don't.’ George Bernard Shaw 



Football brain,

you thought with your feet,

treading the boards

in a dynamic theatre

of passing action.

A winning way,

love of the glorious day 

and a sense of history

from Heaton Park

to socialism.

Your story,

from the pulsing Tyne

to the Geordie trophy room,

keeps us hoping

on Gallowgate,

alive with dignity

and strong respect

for the ideal of community

and the black and white love

of fairness.

Battling away,

in a skilled midfield 

and in the stinking trenches,

you fought

for your troubled lilting city

and all of those 

who ever kicked a ball

in its intimate soulful avenues.





KEITH ARMSTRONG





Colin Veitch made a total of 322 appearances for Newcastle United, scoring 49 goals. He  captained the United side which won League Championships in 1905, 1907 and 1909, the FA Cup in 1910 and were FA Cup finalists in 1905, 1906, 1908 and 1911, and also represented England on 6 occasions.

NIGHTJARS AND THEIR ALLIES - NOW IN SPANISH!



 






































LAS ZUMAYAS Y SUS ALIADAS

(Autor: Keith Armstrong; Traducción: Javier Aldabalde & Marcelo De Maio)

​​
(Para K).


 

Las zumayas y sus aliadas

se posan en el bosque esta noche

soñando con noches salvajes,

una oportunidad de cantar en el vuelo titilante.

Y tú mi hechicera de pelo oscuro

podrías retorcerte desnuda en una cama de plumas

mientras mis manos persiguen

las cimas de tu inmensa dicha

que desborda entre los árboles trémulos.

Porque eres oscura,

de cola de seda

y blancas alas;

eres mi zumaya europea

que trina mientras te hago

brotar en escalofríos de luz de luna.

Dorada y de garganta blanca,

estrellada y de hombros negros

extiendes tus alas alrededor mío,

envuelves mi corazón en cintas de carbón,

me elevas sumiéndome en una bandada de pájaros negros

y me inundas

de canción nocturna.


 







©  Keith Armstrong








THE NIGHTJARS AND THEIR ALLIES

(Keith Armstrong)


(For K.)


The nightjars and their allies

have their heads down in the woods today,

dreaming of wild nights,

a chance to sing on the flickering wing.

And you my dark haired songstress

could writhe naked on a bed of their feathers

as I touch with my aching fingertips

the tips of your sprawling bliss

in all that lushness between the trembling trees.

For you are dusky,

silky-tailed and

white-winged;

you are my European Nightjar

churring as I make you

spring to life in shivers of moonlight.

White-throated and golden,

star-spotted and black shouldered,

you straddle your strapping limbs around me,

wrap my leaping heart in charcoal ribbons,

fly me screaming in a flock of black birds

and drench me

with jars of night song.


 




© Keith Armstrong






























26.8.18

55 DEGREES NORTH

































55 DEGREES NORTH


They’re going to illuminate Scotswood,
make missile entrepreneurs in Elswick.
Someone’s set fire to our Arts reporter,
it’s another Cultural Initiative.
Sting’s buying the Civic Centre,
they’re filling the Great North with tanks.
The Sage is changing its name to BAE,
Shane’s pissed on the Royal conductor.
They’re floating quangos down the Tyne,
the bonfire will be at Shields.
They’re bringing tourists to witness miracles,
the Chief Executive will strip for money.
They’re blowing up the Castle Keep
to build an installation.
They’re giving the locals more top down Art,
it’s something to silence our kids with.
They’re taking live theatre to the cemetery,
the vicar will write an Arts Council poem.
Steve Cram’s taken up painting
to stop his nose from running.
The river will be made into an ice rink,
we can play with our boats in the bath.
Let this Great Nation bomb the Middle East,
they’re making a museum of our politics.
Stuffing glass cases with old principles,
the head hunters are out and about.
It’s cultivated jobs for the boys and the girls,
they’re putting the Arts into centres.
Drain the music from our souls,
we have to be grateful to be patronised.
Their self righteousness grins from on high,
let the bombs fly and rockets rip.
We can enjoy some more tamed Art,
say cheerio to your history.
They’ve wrapped it up in moth balls,
thank God for the boys from the south.
They’ve saved us from self government,
we’ve missed out on the Joy Parade.
This City of Culture got lost in the end,
the Angel glowers over us though.
Thanks again City Fathers,
your office blocks look uglier each day.
You’ve reinvented our culture for us,
you’ve rendered it meaningless.
Guts ripped out,
we touch our forelock to your glorious Lords.
From the orifice of the House of Commons
leaks the corrupt emptiness of your Tory manifesto.
The aching past of the working man
has become the death of England.
Let us hail you from NewcastleGateshead,
a city you made up for yourselves.
Let us watch your empty schemes plummet,
let us learn to dance in community again.
We are Geordies naked with a beautiful anger to burn.




KEITH ARMSTRONG



(as published in 'Culture Matters' 2018)










24.8.18

SING A SONG FOR HENSHAW - NEW CD





I particularly treasure your CD. You couldn’t go far wrong having Chris playing on it, but that could come across a bit grudging, which is not at all what I’m meaning. You’ve delivered an absolutely wonderful collection of performances – a work of love – and the music fits in well with what you give to the event. A very big thank you.
I’ve sometimes found poetry reading a troubling business. Quite a lot of poets (there are exceptions - Katrina is one of them) have this weird effect on me where after about 30 seconds I find I’ve drifted off and, I don’t quite know how, but I seem to be thinking about almost anything but the poetry I’m supposed to be listening to. Anyhow this is definitely not the case here. I love this disc and will listen to it repeatedly with great and particular enjoyment. (Julian Watson)


AVAILABLE £7 (INCLUDES POSTAGE) FROM NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS, 35 HILLSDEN ROAD, WHITLEY BAY NE25 9XF.

21.8.18

DURHAM


20.8.18

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

COMING TO LINCOLN SOON!


19.8.18

WALLINGTON MORNING




Super-excited to finally be able to announce the release of our latest poetry collection: Wallington Morning by Keith Armstrong. It's been a long process but well worth it for the beautiful poems that it reveals to the reader; triumphant, brittle, mournful and startling. Available from Amazon as a paperback or for Kindle. Keith Armstrong has put together a romantic, tough, beguiling and tender collection drawing heavily on his connection with the north east. His themes are universal though. A must have for anyone who loves contemporary poetry at its best. Please take a look at this collection of poetry - if contemporary British voices is your thing. I genuinely think this is a great collection by Keith Armstrong.
A fabulous collection of poems from a true poet.
Wallington Morning is tough, tender, funny and nostalgic in the best possible way.

A subtle observer of beauty whether he chooses to do so from the position of global citizen, mourner, lover, friend or son.
Paul Summers

Keith Armstrong’s poems are rooted in the Tyneside music hall tradition, behind which was the august balladry of the Borders.
Michael Standen


'No one in the North East has written and read and
encouraged and organised so consistently and over so
long a period as Keith Armstrong. His poetry is
different, original, and politically exhilarating.’
'It doesn't matter which way his poems are facing, or
the subjects they address, it is recognisibly the same
sensibility, each part of a unified whole, and unified
by the same, strong identifiable voice.' (Andy Croft)


‘When all the rat-faced boys were snuffling at their
mothers'paps, Keith Armstrong was hammering out his
own particular brand of urban socialism, its roots
embedded in Newcastle and his love-hate relationship
with his home city.
Keith is an enigma, a peripatetic people's poet, whose
poems were firebrands that pointed the way for a whole
generation of poets. Keith made a lot of things
possible for myself and many others like me. I don’t
mind admitting that without Keith I would have given
up poetry as a waste of life years ago. Listen to the
lilt of Keith's voice, it is the true voice of
humanity from the pavement philosopher who has lost
everything to the rake internationalist trawling the
bars of Europe in search of poetry and love.’ (Kevin
Cadwallender)



'Armstrong's poetry is the window opened to let out

fetid air and everyone feels their lethargy evaporate.

Although he's been writing and performing for over

thirty years, he's still a marginal figure. Shame on

the poetry czars!

A joyous, subversive, delightful, unpretentious,

funny, anarchistic free spirit underpins Armstrong's

work. It will cheer you up.

His poems are technically achieved, funny, witty,

touching, and sufficiently various for there to be

something to light up every brain which responds to

poetry.

One way to make the world better would be to give

poets as good as Armstrong their due.'

(Alan Dent, Editor, The Penniless Press).



'Great stuff recently. can u send me a signed copy of your recent book? My daughter writes poetry and has just won two prizes and she loved your recent piece so I wanna give her a book of your work.' (Conrad Atkinson)




Mo Shevis -  I love this book and have introduced it to my poetry reading group on many occasions .
 


Dear Keith,

I keep in hands your book today. Have read the title giving first poem:  V e r y  i n t i ma t e and combining farming and thinking and writing. So there was a friendship-link between the great George Orwell and Jack Common - and you have joined them here. Thank you very much, Keith. It will accompagny me at this end of August. I have the dictionary at my side, because you teach me English beside the pleasure I feel when reading  your "fresh", non-academic poems in your very special rhythm.

Thanks, thanks and again thanks from

Margit  (from Tuebingen)

18.8.18

MY FRIEND JACK COMMON (15/8/1903-20/1/1968) BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG
























































 
























Ever since the sixth form,
when I found you, 
a kindred Novocastrian
in a library book,
I seem to have followed in your steps,
stumbled after you 
in rain soaked lanes,
knocked on doors
in search of your stories.
For over forty years,
I have tracked
the movement of your pen
in streets you walked
and on cross country trains
from your own Newcastle
to Warrington
Malvern,
Newport Pagnell,
Letchworth,
Yetminster,
Wallington 
and back again.
I have given talks about you,
supped in your pubs,
strode along your paragraphs 
and river paths
to try to find
that urge in you
to write 
out of your veins
what you thought of things,
what made you tick
and your loved ones 
laugh and cry.
I tried to reach you in a thesis,
to see you as a lad in Heaton,
but I could never catch your breath
because I didn’t get to meet you
face to face,
could only guess
that you were like me:
a kind of kindly 
socialist writer
in a world
too cruel for words.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

Peter Common Well said Keith!



Dear kindly socialist writer - this is great - thanks a lot for sending it

Love
Pat


12.8.18

FRIENDS OF THE GRAVES (FOR THE BIRTLEY BELGIANS)












 









FRIENDS OF THE GRAVES

(for the Birtley Belgians)

‘Never forget that you are a Birtley Belgian.’
(Ida ‘Anderland’ Dergent)

This is the story of the Birtley Belgians,
the shellers from hell,
the wandering men
and the women they wed.
You can say goodbye to your friends.

These are the remnants of Elisabethville,
the shattered relics of battered soldiers,
the shards of savagery,
the empty shells of discarded folk.

This is what’s left of the carnage,
the last of the war effort,
the smiles of the children
and the severed limbs.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

From Flanders and Wallonia they came
leaving beloved roots behind
to do their bit for the ritual slaughter,
to bring up well their sons and daughters
to dance and sing
under the hails of bullets.

Fishing for sunshine in the Ijzer brook,
kicking stones on the Rue de Charleroi,
the Birtley Belgians
planted their seed on Durham ground
and made do
and made explosive dreams.
What more can we tell?
‘Home is made for coming from,
for dreams of going to
which with any luck
will never come true.’

Sweating in uniform
on assembly lines,
pulverising their brains
to keep the powers that be in power,
they were strong
and at the same time weak
and screamed and cried
like anyone.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

They’re gone now,
blown to dust
in the festering fields,
memories strewn over the way
to fertilise another day
with the same weary mistakes
and thrusts of love.

I can see the boys in the Villa de Bruges
slaking their frustrated fantasies
to drown the horror
and the girls
seductive behind the huts
in between
the grind of daily production.

Let me take you
up the Boulevard Queen Mary,
along the Rue de Louvain,
knock on the door of number D2
and blood will pour
and the ground will open up,
‘mud will take you prisoner’
and devour all those years.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.

You can hear their singing on the North Sea wind,
hear them in Chester le Street and Liege,
the brass band and orchestra
drowning out the distant pounding.
In and out of trouble,
we will always dance.

An accordion wails across the little streets,
the Three Tuns welcomes the living.
And at the crack of dawn
and in the battlefields of evening clouds
we will remember them,
in the words of the Walloon poet Camille Fabry proclaim:
‘Our thoughts fly like arrows back to the land of our birth.’

This is the story of the loss of lives
for causes we scarcely understand
but for love and grandeur too
and for the little Belgian children
and the joyous games they play.
This is the story of the Birtley Belgians.



KEITH ARMSTRONG




The Birtley Belgians emigrated from Belgium to Birtley, County Durham during World War 1 to build an armaments factory and lived in their own specially created village.  
Named after the Queen of the Belgians, Elisabethville itself became Little Belgium - a colony of 6,000 people, of boules and of boulevards.

It had its own hospital, cemetery, school, church, nunnery and Co-op; only Flemish and Walloon were spoken.

The Birtley factory was to the north of the town, British built but entirely Belgian run. By 1916 it gave work to 3,500 men, 85 per cent disabled in some way, with 2,500 family members also housed in the adjacent iron fenced village. 





The poem was commissioned by the Birtley Belgians Euro-Network in 2015 in association with Borsolino and Berline Belgian Drama Groups.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgE9ltf_Az4

http://www.therecusant.org.uk/#/keith-armstrong-new-poem/4594395442

What a good job you've made of it!  Like you, I find these nooks and crannies of the 20th century totally fascinating. (John Mapplebeck, Bewick Films).

Nice one Keith. Well constructed and hitting the spot for me.

In the 60s I went to Birtley East Secondary Modern, which was located across the Durham Road from Elizabethville and behind the Three Tuns. Fellow pupils were children of the Birtley Belgians and the ROF factory was still operating and producing shells.

Kind regards,
John Mitchell (The Sawdust Jacks)

8.8.18

AND PIGS MIGHT FLY






























(for Helmut Bugl)


On this evening flight,
necks stuck out,
we dart in formation
to a Stuttgart dream.
Complete strangers,
we share a common French wine
to celebrate clouds.
With your rough words,
you ask me what I do.
“Write poetry”, I say,
and sign away a verse or two for you,
hovering in mid-air, between snow and sun.
“And you?” “I breed pigs I do”,
flying home from a swine seminar in Montreal.
To prove it, you sign me a photo of six of your litter,
the Swabian breed of Helmut Bugl.
It’s a flying cultural exchange,
a rhyme for a slice of time.
The stars are sizzling in the thrilling sky
and, tonight, pigs might fly.
Tonight, pigs might fly.





Keith Armstrong





6.8.18

PUTTING KATWIJK ON MAPS
























 








There is always a night in Katwijk,
Forever a moon in the daylight.
And its rain belts down just the same,
Pouring our loves down the drain.

And the darkness can last forever
Like the mist in a cold September.
The sea sails along in the winds
That batter our Katwijk blinds.

And yet this Katwijk will stay
Forever and a livelong day,
Reminding us of gulls on the swell
And larks in the sound of church bells.

We danced in the Katwijk streets,
Her eyes alight in dark sheets.
I thought she would never die
In the rolling of her thighs.

These little avenues reel
To the clatter of her high heels.
And it will always be the rain
That soaks me through to the brain.

So let us put Katwijk on maps
To honour the love that it mocks.
There’s a joy to be felt in its trees
Alongside the pains in its seas.





KEITH ARMSTRONG




the jingling geordie

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