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)




We're dancing in Fermoy tonight,

the Blackwater

shivers in the rippling dark

and a piper twinkles with glee.

Now I’d like to romp with a Fermoy lass

in a restless bed of rebel poems.

I’d like her to pirouette in dreams

all the way down MacCurtain Street

and in the back of Murphy’s Pub.

Can you see how Michael Flatley skips 

in the footsteps of martyrs and Mattie Feerick?

Through the military barracks,

he upsets the garrison with his mighty feet

and throws a party with his legs 

in Castle Hyde

for flitting artists only,

just those 

with a lilt in their bones.

So we’re dancing in Fermoy tonight:

a show of skipping

to bring a throb to your blood.

So dance with me

and the local librarian;

we’ll smooch behind the shelves of light,

spark social change

with a twirl of the hips

in the flipping manuscripts.

It’s wet and cold

but the whiskey leaps

and the fiddle cries

and the room is flowing with poems.

You know I dance 

everywhere I go in the world

but there’s something special

in a Fermoy prance

and the dashing river

that’s awash with the salmon

in the heart of this bobbing town.

And John Anderson, that builder of swirling veins, 

reels through my nightmares

lubricated with history’s passages 

and the staggering rhymes

of a tiny life 

spent larking in sun and moonlight.

Along Little William O’Brien Street

and up Oliver Plunkett Hill,

I’m simply dancing in Fermoy,

up to my eyes in joy.








my ruined BERLIN,
where else have we been ruined as in BERLIN,
yet your ruins, BERLIN, embrace more future
than all Duesseldorf’s insurance buildings put together.
I love your mocking grin, BERLIN,
the bare facade,
all the heaped-up futility in your features,
your rage,
the exhaustion in your faces.’

(Reimar Lenz)

Bruno Winkler
has offered to ship us up river
to sniff the rust of decrepit regimes,
to smell the painted faces of fresh errors.
I run my fingers through this infected water
and taste it on my questing lips.
We slip quietly
through the back of history,
our boat creaking in the winter breeze,
cresting through despair.
There are museums and palaces of great culture,
socialist pimps and capitalist tarts.
Wash it all down
with bottles of beer from the East,
soak it in the perfume of money.
Bash through the Gates,
under the monuments of false dawns.

We must hope I suppose,
anchor our dreams
in the dust.

Please Bert,
don’t stare at us so.
We are simply doing our best.

Making the same mistakes again.
Numbing the pain
of the Spree.





In the oven of a Berlin heatwave,
this crumbling block bakes
and all the bullet holed walls
Tenements skinned bare,
they burn with anxiety, death wishes,
frustrated hopes.

From a cracked and peeling courtyard window,
a Beach Boys' track
clashes against an old woman’s ears
as she carries a bagful of bruises home.
In this rundown, sunful flat,
I am tuned in to the B.B.C. World Service –
a cricket season just beginning
and East Berlin sizzling
in a panful of history.

Senefelderstrasse 19, crawling with flies.
On top of the wardrobe, some volumes of Lenin slump,
there is dust everywhere, dust.
And all we are saying in all the sweltering
is ‘Give me a piece of the Wall.’
just ‘Give me a piece of the Wall.’

Look down onto the street –
the cobbles still stare,
the cracks in the pavement leer.
And, like every day, Frau Flugge traipses gamely along,
trying hard not to trip,
shabbily overdressed and hanging on
to the shrapnel of her past affections,
to the snapshots of her dreams.

From corner bars,
the gossip
snatches from doorways at passers by.
Inside, it is dark
and the money changes hands
burning holes in the shabby pockets
of the dour Prenzlauer Berg folk:

‘The People are strong.’
‘They can’t sit more than 4 to a table here.’
‘THEY say it’s illegal.’
‘Let’s sing!’

Amongst the clenched blossom of Ernst Thallmann Park,
‘a Workers' Paradise’,
this glassy Planetarium gleams
under an ancient East German sky;
shining huge shell of a dome,
it traps stars and opens up planets:
it is far reaching, transcending walls.
It can stir the imaginings of all the world’s children.
It is the light at the end of Senefelderstrasse.
It beckons,

And Me?
I am walking in blistered hours,
sick of the sight of money
and what it does
to all the people I love.
‘A tip for your trip!
Instead of a brick from the Wall to take home,
bring back a Bertolt Brecht poem’:

‘And I always thought; the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like,
Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds.
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself.
Surely you see that.’

Through the letterbox of Senefelderstrasse 19,
I push this poem.
And, for the last time, leave
through Checkpoint Charlie.
‘Goodbye Frau Flugge, Herr Brecht,
the trams.
My friends, I wish you
sunny days.’

Keith Armstrong
Berlin 1990
As published in 'Culture Mattters' 2016

'True Berlin poetry thanks.'  (Dured Freitag) 

photos by stan gamester



(to Alfonsas Nyka-Niliunas)

‘My heart cracked
Like the window pane
from the bell‘s thrust.’

Oh Jenny
you walked with me in your dreamy way
along Hauffstrasse,
my lady out of a fairy tale,
blonde hair shimmered
in the Neckar breeze.
And what exactly were we doing
sharing those crazy moments?
Wild flower
plucked from Friedrich’s grave,
you wanted something more tangible
I fear
in your oh so sensual way.
You intoxicated me
with the strange fragrance
of your long sexy fingers,
the depth of your lips.
But you couldn’t understand
why I called you ‘Caroline von Schlegel’,
why I wanted to make love to you
in smutty Amsterdam
on a creaking canal boat
on soaking Prinsengracht,
when I could
have had you
all to myself
on your bed
at home.


Alfonsas Nyka-Niliunas was born in 1919 in the highland region of Lithuania. He studied Romance languages and literatures and philosophy at the University of Kaunas and the University of Vilnius. In 1944, as the Soviets encroached upon Lithuania, he escaped to Germany, where he lived in Displaced Persons camps until 1949, furthering his studies at Tübingen and Freiburg universities. In 1950, Nyka-Niliunas emigrated to the United States, He is considered to be one of the main émigré poets. He has published a number of books of poetry, has translated Dante, Virgil, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Baudelaire and other important European poets into Lithuanian, and has been awarded many prizes, amongst them the Lithuanian National Prize for Literature.






You picked splinters

with a pin each day

from under blackened fingernails;

shreds of metal

from the shipyard grime,

minute memories of days swept by:

the dusty remnants of a life

spent in the shadow of the sea;

the tears in your shattered eyes

at the end of work.

And your hands were strong,

so sensitive and capable 

of building boats

and nursing roses;

a kind and gentle man

who never hurt a soul,

the sort of quiet knackered man

who built a nation.

Dad, I watched your ashes float away

down to the ocean bed

and in each splinter

I saw your caring eyes

and gracious smile.

I think of your strong silence every day

and I am full of you,

the waves you scaled,

and all the sleeping Tyneside streets

you taught me to dance my fleeting feet along.

When I fly, you are with me.

I see your fine face

in sun-kissed clouds

and in the gold ring on my finger,

and in the heaving crowd on Saturday,

and in the lung of Grainger Market,

and in the ancient breath

of our own Newcastle.


'This is one of the poems I'll never forget. I see the struggling of my own dad in your words. 

Thanks for your fine poem.' (Klaas Drenth) 

Beautiful poem. Loving, moving memories. Most excellent Keith.’ (Strider Marcus Jones)

'Love the poem Keith. That’s my dad.’ (John McMahon)

Annie Sheridan 'Beautifully visual Keith ,nice to share your memories.' x

Imelda Walsh 'Lovely poem, loving memories too.'

Kenny Jobson 'So, so good, Keith - I'll share this, if you don't mind.'




the jingling geordie

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