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 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,

(as performed by Dr Keith Armstrong in the Williams Library, St Chad's College, University of Durham on Thursday 27th April with guest writers Manuela Schmidit and Florian Neuner (from Durham's twin city of Tuebingen) and fellow poet Katrina Porteous).

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.


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.

The partnership with County Durham and the City of Tuebingen in South Germany was established in 1969. 
Poet Doctor Keith Armstrong, who gained his doctorate at the University on Durham in 2007, following on from Bachelor's and Master's degrees there, first visited Tuebingen in November 1987, with the support of the County Council and the Kulturamt in Tuebingen, to give readings and talks for a period of a month. Since then he has travelled to the city over 30 times and helped arrange for Durham poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.






Sensational Rock,
swimming in light.
Bird cries clinging to ancient ledges,
Kittiwakes smashing against time.
What tales you could tell.

Your face is so moody,
flickers with breezes,
crumbles in a hot afternoon.

Climbing your powdery steps,
we look down on the sea
thrashing at you.

We join a choir of birds at your peak,
cry out to the sky
in good spirits.

Nesting for the sake of it,
our lyrics are remnants on the shore.

We keep chipping away,
do we not?

We slip
through the pebbles,
with babies.

We leave our mark,
a grain
on the ancient landscape.

We go.

We dance like the sunlight
on your scarred body:







(Hermann Hesse in Tuebingen, 1895-1899)

The sunflower opens as does my heart,
In love and hope.
Spring, what is your intent?
When will my thirst be quenched? ...

(Eduard Moerike)

Today a prayer
in my nervous heart,
starting the tasks of the day
at 7am
with the edge of a warm coffee
on my silent tongue.
Through the window,
people’s bodies stir
and beating birds
swim in the fresh daylight

‘My growing wings should carry the songs’
on my way to work
in the beautiful city,
smitten with melancholy,
no spring in my shoes,
back to the yawning books,
back to the cellar of Hades.
another stretch of a morning,
Carl August Sonnewald
and his Swabian breathing,
Henirich Hermes
and that cough thick with the phlegm 
of heavy tomes;
the ethic of work
eating away at joy,
sucking the melody
from the throats of songsters.

O painful youth
where will it all end?
Where in this cosmos
is the love?:
‘My gods are better and more faithful
than that Sunday God.’
I scramble up the hill 
for lunch
taking the air within Castle walls,
Father Goethe keeping me company,
clinging to the beauty
of butterflies
in the gardens,
something to hang onto
to get through the afternoon with
at the enduring bench,
overfowing with commerce
and the daily grind of monotonous money.

a swim in the Neckar
is the only way to cool off
and midnight walks on sleepless nights. 
Writing means singing,
poetry is song.
ripples in the trees
along Herrenberger Strasse,
dances in Lauscher the Listener’s
lonely little room.
A sip of Frau Leopold’s bitter cider
makes me drowsy,
ready to cave in,
looking for love
in the strings
of a violin.
Student suicides,
funereal music 
waft by,
a fraternity carousing
in the dirty street.

Half the night,
I lie at the window
reading Moerike
and Novalis,
surrounded by books
all the time;
and that bastard Herr Christaller upstairs
whistling at night,
bumping about
in his boots.
Swabian stories
at the Swabian Clerks’ Club,
startling misadventures
and fairy tales
keeping me awake in bed,
unused kisses on my bachelor pillow,
moths of poems
taunting me
down centuries.
And Otto and Ludwig and Carlo, Oskar and Wilhelm,
‘Le Petit Cenacle’,
surrounding me at another Last Supper,
sinking in the beer-soaked words
of this pissing city.
Life is so lonely for us all in the end
with only the glint of a smile on the face of Helene
or the hint of a tune in a line
to redeem it:
the smile on a mother’s glad face,
the grace of a feather in sunlight.

I am looking for a lake
to rest my Romantic Songs by;
I am looking for a cab
out of town,
a way of leaving Tuebingen
without ever leaving it.
Step out of my way,
a writer is coming.
Let me reach for the sky
with the fountain pen 
of a spirited man,
grown beautuful
from the twitching bones
of shy youth.

One day the stars above 
Shall flow in golden wine, 
We will enjoy it all, 
And as stars we will shine.



A perfect poem, Keith!!!
A new style! Please, more of those!
A copy to my friends from all around the globe... Sweden, USA New Zealand, France, Germany (Mittlefranken und Aachen), Austria, Prague and Northumberland.



Poems by Keith Armstrong



antique mart of memory’s remnants
glad bag of fading rags

bedraggled old flag

blowing in the wind over newcastle


we stand on street corners shivering in the winter
like birds sheltering from the wind

we do not rattle loose change in our pockets
only the nuts and bolts of poverty

we are splinters
our clothes droop on us
using our bones for hangers

we avoid mirrors and images of ourselves in shields road doorways
we do not look through windows

we draw curtains of beer across our eyes
we sleep/place bets

every week on dole day hunger prods us awake

it is instinct

it is a fear of never waking

yesterday’s records in a raby street window
yesterday’s news
revolving today

pictures of byker trapped in a camera
yesterday’s photos
developed today

yesterday’s headlines
today’s wrapping paper

yesterday’s wars are bloodless today

snot drips nose
wailing ragman drags a foot
and sniffs

any old rags
any old rags

hair like straw
snot runs
licks cracked mouth

any old rags
any old rags

as raby street

any old rags
any old rags

watson’s toffee factory
wrapped in mist
melts in the watering mouth of the dawn
another byker child is born

another byker son assumes
the dusty jacket of a byker man 

and this is the truth
the wind-ripped reality between the grave and the womb
the aimlessness
the weary broken people
shuffling through the measured lines of architects’ reports

the cripples
the dying streets
behind the brash and snatching shops
the coughing strays

this is all the small print
the drifting words
beneath the glossy covers

and this is mother byker now

a wasteland of schools
churches public houses
a frail old woman
her mouth and eyes bricked over

on her last legs

creeps like a lizard over the face of byker
dragging behind it its retinue of planners
                                                builders and

you will wake from your years of sleeping
and find what you knew to be yours being hauled away
over byker bridge on the backs of lorries
your yesterday
in clouds of dust

byker folk are living still
byker folk on byker hill
fading flowers on a window sill
byker folk

the jingling geordie

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