A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)


isle of man

Special events

John Martin Presentation

Dr Keith Armstrong is a poet from Newcastle who has devised a one man touring show on the life of the artist John Martin who was born near Newcastle and died on the Isle of Man.

Dr Armstrong will be visiting the Isle of Man in September and has agreed to give a presentation to the Isle of Man Art Society on Thursday 17th September at 7pm - 9pm.

You can contact Dr Keith Armstrong via email k.armstrong643@btinternet.com

Painting and culture combined

Welcome to The Granada Painting Experience, a five-day itinerary that combines painting, cultural history, and social interaction in the inspirational setting of Granada in Andalucia.

Our aim is simply to bring artists together, whatever their chosen medium, level, or intensity, to paint and draw with people who share a common interest in art, culture and travel.

Granada is a painter’s paradise, and resident painter Daniel Fermor-Smith, along with the other members of The Granada Painting Experience team, will be at hand to guide you to the best vantage points and assist you in your bid to capture pictorially the magical potential of this most famous of Moorish cities.

In a nutshell the objective of The Granada Painting Experience is for you to have a thoroughly stimulating and enjoyable week in Granada and to go home at the end of it with a great picture or two tucked under your arm to remember the experience by.

For more information please go to:www.granadapaintingexperience.com


university of sunderland press

from the University of Sunderland Press
Common Words and the Wandering Star
by Keith Armstrong
Introductory Offer £5.95
In this unique book, Keith Armstrong assesses the life and work of Newcastle born writer Jack Common, in the light of the massive social, economic and cultural changes which have affected the North East of England and wider society, through the period of Common’s life and afterwards. He seeks to point out the relevance of Common to the present day in terms of his ideas about class, community and the individual and in the light of Common’s sense of rebelliousness influenced by a process of grassroots education and self improvement. “Keith Armstrong has used the available archives and published materials, including Common’s own works as well as those of commentators, to write this biography. He also conducted interviews with a variety of respondents, including some of Common’s family and close friends, and draws on this original material throughout. He has thus assembled an important body of original material which will be of considerable interest to readers.” Professor Mike Fleming “Keith Armstrong's study of Jack Common is a major contribution to contemporary studies in English literature. Using sociological perspectives in his approach to biography, Armstrong not only reveals much about Jack Common the writer but shows, too, how Common’s work helped him reshape both his and our understanding of the circumstances of his life and of his generation. Through biography, Armstrong has provided a vivid picture of social and cultural change in British society. This is a well-informed book with many innovative characteristics, including the author's use of poetry as a way of exploring Common's creativity.” Professor Bill Williamson ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ To place an order
you can either Fax, Telephone or contact: Business Education Publishers Limited, evolve Business Centre, Cygnet way, Rainton Bridge Business Park, DH4 5QY Tel No: +44(0) 191 3055165 Fax No:+44(0) 191 3055504 email: info@bepl.com Common Words and the Wandering Star: A biographical study of culture and social change in the life and work of writer Jack Common (1903-1968) 978-1-906832-025 RRP £7.95 Introductory offer £5.95 Plus postage and packing on single copies - UK £1.50. For multiple copy orders or overseas orders please contact Business Education Publishers Limited.



Northern Voices Community Projects, based in Whitley Bay and North Shields, has received substantial financial backing from Awards for All and North Tyneside Council to publish a new book on the heritage of North Tyneside. The book will look at 20 local buildings in words and pictures.

Local people are invited to send in poems, songs, artwork and photographs about the following buildings and the material submitted will be selected by editors Keith Armstrong and Peter Dixon for the book due to be published for Xmas 2009:

Tynemouth Priory; Dial Cottage, Killingworth; Burradon Tower; Backworth Hall; Wallsend Town Hall and Civic Hall; Master Mariners' Homes, Tynemouth; Clifford’s Fort, North Shields; Maritime Chambers, North Shields; Dove Marine Laboratory; St Mary’s Lighthouse; Spanish City; St Alban’s Church, Earsdon; Collingwood Monument; Segedunum Roman Fort; Willington Mill; Willington Railway Viaduct; Borough Theatre, Wallsend; Grand Hotel, Tynemouth; Tynemouth Station; Knotts Flats, North Shields.

Material shoud be sent to: Northern Voices Community Projects, 93 Woodburn Square, Whitley Lodge, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE26 3JD. Tel. 0191 2529531.

email: k.armstrong643@btinternet.com

The book will be launched at a special event with readings and songs, including a performance by Keith Armstrong of a sequence of new poems.


tyne bridge poetry

'jingling geordie' keith armstrong has just recorded a selection of poems and an interview for a feature on the theme of the tyne bridge for bbc radio 4 due to be broadcast early in 2010.

more on this later fellow punters.

oliver cromwell

Speech on 19 April 1653 dissolving the rump parliament:

"Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you, who were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance."

john ruskin - from 'unto this last'

"There is no wealth but Life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life, to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others."


herman hesse in tuebingen

The cycle of discontent and early rebelliousness seemed to temporarily subside when Hesse began an apprenticeship in the Heckenhauer bookshop in in the university town of Tübingen on October 17, 1895. Hesse's literary career was about to begin.
While learning the publishing business, Hesse engaged himself with self-education, and to a degree, the many evening hours devoted to quiet thought and contemplation accorded deeper insight and clarity. Although Hesse on occasion attended social gatherings and went out with friends, overall the years in Tübingen were devoted to solitary activities. Hesse wrote at the time, "It's the work I do on my own that makes life worthwhile." Hesse spent much time reading alone, absorbing and forgetting himself in German Romantic literature, primarily Goethe who utterly captivated him.

During the Tübingen years, Hesse increasingly became enveloped in an atmosphere of aestheticism, finding faith and comfort in the world of beauty, and specifically the world of poetry. Hesse strived to familiarize himself with the history of literature, and the world of romanticism, and aestheticism was of key importance.

Heckenhauer's bookshop had a collection specializing in theology, philology, and law. Hesse's assignment there consisted of organizing, packing, and archiving the books. After the end of each twelve hour workday, Hesse pursued his own work further, and he used his long, free Sundays with books rather than social contacts. Hesse studied theological writings, and later Goethe, Lessing, Schiller, and several texts on Greek mythology. In 1896, his poem 'Madonna' appeared in a Viennese periodical.
In 1898, Hesse had a respectable income that enabled his financial independence from his parents. During this time, he concentrated on the works of the German Romantics, including much of the work from Clemens Brentano, Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, Friedrich Holderlin and Novalis. In letters to his parents, he expressed a belief that "the morality of artists is replaced by aesthetics." This newfound faith in aestheticism formed the background of Hesse's first poems. It dominates in An Hour behind Midnight, as also in parts of Hermann Lauscher, and was finally beginning to fade away in Peter Camenzind.

In autumn 1898, Hesse released his first small volume of poetry, Romantic Songs and, in the summer of 1899, a collection of prose entitled One Hour After Midnight. Both works were a business failure. In two years, only 54 of the 600 printed copies of Romantic Songs were sold, and One Hour After Midnight received only one printing and sold sluggishly. Nevertheless, the Leipzig publisher Eugen Diederichs was convinced of the literary quality of the work.
As Hesse later suggested, the title, as well as the collection itself, "was the kingdom in which I lived, the dreamland of my
working hours and days that lay mysteriously anywhere between time and space."

I Know, You Walk by Hermann Hesse

I walk so often, late, along the streets,
Lower my gaze, and hurry, full of dread,
Suddenly, silently, you still might rise
And I would have to gaze on all your grief
With my own eyes,
While you demand your happiness, that's dead.
I know, you walk beyond me, every night,
With a coy footfall, in a wretched dress
And walk for money, looking miserable!
Your shoes gather God knows what ugly mess,
The wind plays in your hair with lewd delight-
You walk, and walk, and find no home at all.


‘We are all in the gutter,but some of us are looking at the stars’ (Ocar Wilde).

Headlong, headstrong

Hermann Hesse

fell, flat on his face, in the Tuebingen mud.

“That’s it! Get stuck into the shit!”,

an ageing Swabian yelled.

And the church-bells throbbed along Lange Gasse,

and the dust fell on Heckenhauer’s Bookshop.

And, as young Hermann slithered to his fumbling feet

and cleaned his shitty glasses,

his first poems

shone in the moonlit gutter.

Keith Armstrong,



Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke.

Happiness is how, not what: a talent, not an object.

If you hate a person, you hate something within him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.

It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honour him for what he is.

Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.

People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.

The middle class prefers comfort to pleasure, convenience to liberty, and a pleasant temperature to the deathly consuming inner fire.

Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.


tuebingen/durham exchange report

just to let you know that the recent durham/tuebingen literary exchange programme went very well.

we had 40-50 people at clayport library on wednesday 13th may for the reading by eva zeller and local counterparts and eva's visit to ryton school went well too.

following that, my own visit to tuebingen from 19th to 24th may was a great success, both culturally and socially, and i made a number of new contacts, as well as meeting old friends. i performed my poetry at a school, in the historic local bar 'the boulanger' (with eva zeller and singer chris simmance) and at a poetry slam, as part of the buecherfest, which was attended by over 200 people. i also attended the launch of the buecherfest.

i had lunch with friederike hoyler and colleague from the kulturamt and, with the free use of a lange gasse apartment, found the support given to me, and the hospitality, very encouraging.

we are already planning for next year and will keep in touch on this.

keith armstrong




We stand concealed in roped-off rooms.
Dead eyes of the blind old monarchs of Scotland
hang out
from frozen palace walls.

No one lives in this giant doll’s house,
no one lusts any more.

The furniture lies draped in frost.

Stiff dummies of the lingering past
hunch drearily in padded chairs;

the electric veins of Kings and Queens
become dead rivers, frozen streams.


They dragged Rizzio’s punctured body through here,
trailing the thick claret wine
across floorboards
now worn bare by footsore tourists
who have gouged out chunks
of the bloodstained wood
and slipped them
into suburban drawers:

in the debris of their murderous minds;
of a hunchback’s blood.


This is a disinfected past.
The sheets on the bed are dry.

The monument stands like a broken tree,
tugged dead by howling Lothian winds.

As thistles wilt on the backs of bent hills,
another party shuffles round:

in one ear,
out the other,
they go;
flies crawling
through the head of a corpse,
ringed by the flashing crown of Edinburgh:

a throb of a city
alive in the evening sun.

And cloud drifts,
life dashes
past Holyrood:

spear of our history,
sucker of our blood.


this poem is published in the latest issue of 'Ranfurly Review' www.ranfurly-review.co.uk



Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.
I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.
His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.
My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.



birthday bash!


come along to the marsden grotto in south shields on wednesday 24th june at 7.30pm to celebrate the birthday of 'jingling geordie' keith armstrong.

there will be poetry from paul summers, catherine graham, william martin, dave alton and 'jingle' himself, with songs from
marie little and tony whittle and sea shanties from jim mageean and 'the ancient mariners'.

the event is in honour of newcastle's eighteenth century poet and agitator thomas spence and local hero and miner, jack 'the blaster' bates, who, back in 1780, at the age of 80, excavated his new home in the rocks at marsden which became known as the 'marsden grotto'. in honour of jack, spence wrote above the fireplace in jack's cave, the following:

'ye landlords vile, whose man's peace mar,
come levy rents here if you can;
your stewards and lawyers i defy,
and live with all the RIGHTS OF MAN.'

this was the first use of the phrase 'the rights of man'.


back at wordfringe, aberdeen

26th May 2009

Noah's Art might have made an apt alternative title for the the Voyager Poets event at Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen, during which — by some strange stroke of serendipity — all three headline performers felt moved to pack the gallery space with creatures in transit: lambs ‘ear to ear’ in a train (John Mackie), and pigs and horses in planes (Keith Armstrong and T. S. Eliot prizewinner Jen Hadfield, respectively). Indeed, the stunning Hadfield went so far as to conjure up a fantastically bizarre animal mass, somehow charming her keen but slightly timid audience into hearty repititions of the surreal invocation, ‘The horse never wake that stands in mid-air’ (from Ladies and Gentlemen This Is a Horse as Magritte Might Paint Him in Nigh-No-Place, which provided most of her poems that evening). What was otherwise especially beautiful in Hadfield's performance (quite apart from the luxuriance of the verse itself) was the sweetness and gentleness of her delivery — not least in her unexpectedly lovely unaccompanied singing of the traditional Scottish ballad The Gypsy Laddies.
Tradition of other kinds glowed at the warm heart of Keith Armstrong's recitations, ringing with sincerity and loyalty: to the working-class people of the North-East of England (also at the core of his doctoral dissertation on Jack Common), and in particular his own family. But for Armstrong, despite his generous humour, memories of these can sometimes be — like scattered cremation ashes — grimy, glinting ‘splinters’; and it was perhaps the darker, sorer shards in his verse which cut deepest on this occasion.
Creative, transformative memory is equally central to the poetry of John Mackie, who performed his gorgeously hypnotic, meditative verse — at once intellectual and intimate — as Infinite Equation #2, alongside reader Anna Levine, and classical guitarist Michael Moar. Their work brought a patchwork-colourful programme to a tender close.

Lisa Fraser


borders - halluin & menen & mr carissimo

the jingling geordie

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