Sunday, 21 May 2017

TELL ME LIES ABOUT NORTHUMBERLAND

















 















(in honour of Adrian Mitchell)

Say this land is ours, 
these pipe tunes do not cry. 
The birds all sing in dialect,
old miners breathe like dukes.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Tell me it isn’t feudal,
that castles were built for us.
We never touch the forelock,
bend to scrape up dust.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Your pretty girls don’t stink of slaughter,
your eyes don’t blur with myth.
You’re as equal as a duchess,
saints never smell of piss.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Your roots are in this valley,
you were never from doon south.
You never hide your birthplace,
you’re a real poet of the north.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

The churches are not crumbling,
the congregations glow with hope.
We are different from the foreigner,
our poetry rhymes with wine. 

Tell me lies about Northumberland. 

There is no landed gentry,
no homes locals can’t afford.
There’s no army on the moors,
the Romans freed us all.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

That the hurt is in the past,
the future holds no war.
Home rule is at our fingertips,
the Coquet swims with love.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.  

‘The Garden’ is our children’s,
Hotspur spurs us on.
The seagulls are not soaked in oil,
the cows are not diseased.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

This Kingdom is United,
‘Culture’ is our God. 
Everyone’s a Basil Bunting freak,
there’s music everywhere.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

We will have our independence,
we’ll get the Gospels back.
We live off museums and tourists,
we don’t need boats or trades.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

We’re in charge of our own futures,
we have north east citizens here.
In this autonomous republic,
we’re free as dicky birds.

So shut your eyes.

And tell me lies 

about Northumberland.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

Mo Shevis  I think Adrian Mitchell would have been well and truly honoured by that one Keith!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

TRAVELS IN CUBA WITH DOCTOR KEITH ARMSTRONG





























photos by keith armstrong

CUBA, CROCODILES, RAIN

It is raining on crocodiles,
bullet-tears on the scales.
Here, where the balance of power has changed.
These banks of hardened green-backs, spread
stoned along the water’s edge,
are caged
like old dictators,
reigns ended
as young Cuba
surrounds them.


MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTION, MONCADA BARRACKS

Here there are:
field guns,
remnants of scorched earth
and grass
the Guerillas chewed
All enclosed in;
pock-marked walls,
a shot-up barracks
with windows
you can now see children through.

This is:
the Museum of the History of the Revolution;
outside, across the road,
it is being extended,
all the time.


IMAGE OF CHE GUEVARA

Across Revolution Square,
his face beams
redder and larger than
the sun.
Can any one man
be this big?
He is a Christ to them;
an ideal inflatable,
blown by a strong wind
that clenches the U.S. flag
in its grip
and tears it
into what it is:
pieces of bought skin.
Guevara -
whose dreams go on
purposefully drifitng,
pinning shirts
to sweating backs.
In the haze of Havana,
the heat from his gaze
burns a laser way
through the Yankee jungle
to the other side.
Across Revolution Square,
he is above all men
a man.



KEITH ARMSTRONG,

Havana.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE






I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE

sing of my home city
sing of a true geordie heart
sing of a river swell in me
sing of a sea of the canny
sing of the newcastle day

sing of a history of poetry
sing of the pudding chare rain
sing of the puddles and clarts
sing of the bodies of sailors
sing of the golden sea

sing of our childrens’ laughter
sing of the boats in our eyes
sing of the bridges in sunshine
sing of the fish in the tyne
sing of the lost yards and the pits

sing of the high level railway
sing of the love in my face
sing of the garths and the castle
sing of the screaming lasses
sing of the sad on the side

sing of the battles’ remains
sing of the walls round our dreams
sing of the scribblers and dribblers
sing of the scratchers of livings
sing of the quayside night
 
sing of the kicks and the kisses
sing of the strays and the chancers
sing of the swiggers of ale
sing of the hammer of memory
sing of the welders’ revenge

sing of a battered townscape
sing of a song underground
sing of a powerless wasteland
sing of a buried bard
sing of the bones of tom spence

sing of the cocky bastards
sing of a black and white tide
sing of the ferry boat leaving
sing of cathedral bells crying
sing of the tyneside skies

sing of my mother and father
sing of my sister’s kindness
sing of the hope in my stride
sing of a people’s passion
sing of the strength of the wind


KEITH ARMSTRONG


(as featured on BBC Radio 4) 

"I heard the broadcast. You should be congratulated on your contribution. It was certainly more enjoyable than a man describing the photographs he'd taken on the wireless." (Brian Bennison, North East Laboury History Society).

Monday, 1 May 2017

A PRAYER FOR THE LONERS
























 








The dejected men,
the lone voices,
slip away
in this seaside rain.
Their words shudder to a standstill
in dismal corners.
Frightened to shout, 
they cower
behind quivering faces.
No one listens
to their memories crying.
There seems no point
in this democratic deficit.
For years, they just shuffle along,
hopeless
in their financial innocence.
They do have names
that no lovers pronounce.
They flit between stools,
miss out on gales of laughter.
Who cares for them?
Nobody in Whitley Bay
or canny Shields,
that’s for sure.
These wayside fellows
might as well be in a saddos’ heaven
for all it matters
in the grey world’s backwaters.
Life has bruised them,
dashed them.
Bones flake into the night.
I feel like handing them all loud hailers
to release  
their oppressed passion,
to move them
to scream 
red murder at their leaders -
those they never voted for;
those who think they’re something,
some thing special,
grand.
For, in the end,
I am on the side of these stooped lamenters,
the lonely old boys with a grievance
about caring 
and the uncaring;
about power,
and how switched off
this government is
from the isolated,
from the agitated,
from the trembling,
the disenfranchised 
drinkers of sadness.

 
 
 
KEITH ARMSTRONG
 
 
Kenny Jobson absolutely excellent

Davide Trame This is a great, powerful poem

Libby Wattis Brilliant poem x

Gracie Gray Very evocative Keith. x


Sue Hubbard Very strong


David Henry Fantastic! A powerful and very moving poem 

Strider Marcus Jones A great poem full of so many truths.

Dominic Windram Great stuff Keith... always a vociferous voice for the voiceless! 

Siobhan Coogan Beautiful Keith you give a voice to the lonely

Saturday, 22 April 2017

ALAN C. BROWN - A TRIBUTE BY DAVE ALTON



































Photo by Tony Whittle









 
 "They Shoot Horses Don’t They…"

A sunny day in back in the 1970s and there's a parade through the streets of Newcastle. I don’t recall the reason for it, some mayoral celebration or significant civic anniversary perhaps, but it was quite extensive.

There were floats and fanciful costumes, crowds along the pavements and amidst the slow moving, slightly unruly jollity, on the flat-back of a lorry, the Tyneside Poets, declaiming their verses through a loud hailer.

Amongst the collective of young bards was the father figure, a poet in his fifties who was as enthusiastic as ever he’d been. Alan C. Brown read with customary enthusiasm his poem inspired by a popular film of the day, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They…”

Alan was the link between the upsurge of poetic interest in the 1950s and a group of poets determined to take poetry out from the hallowed halls of academe to wherever it might find a hearing, the more unlikely the venue the better.

The spirit of originality suffused Alan who cared little for conforming to conventional thinking. This showed through in his combining being a practicing Christian with a political sympathy for Russia.

As a poet he had an enduring interest in Russian poetry, with the possibility that poetry could become a popular art form. While others of his generation may have acquired greater public acknowledgement, none could match Alan’s enthusiasm and capacity for poetry.

Being one of those young bards on the lorry, I have vivid memories of my time with the Tyneside Poets and the central role Alan played in it. Even after that original group dispersed, Alan persisted and kept things going, organising subsequent groups that bore the name.

Initially, Keith Armstrong and I set up the Poetry Tyneside blog to put work drawn from Poetry North East, the Tyneside Poets’ magazine, on-line. Alan’s poetry was and is an important part of that heritage.

They may shoot horses, but old poets read on until they can read no more. Alan C. Brown may no longer read, but it is a testimony to him that he will continue to be read.



The Poet’s Tongue
(For Alan C. Brown)

The poet’s tongue is in repose,
His ear shrouded in silence,
But though the voice has passed away
Words remain of consequence.

Time is versed in its own passing:
Rigour of mortis requires
Syllables be chosen with care
Before their moment expires.

What remain stays with the reading,
Way beyond fad or fashion.
His spirit lives though the verses
Penned with the ink of passion.


Dave Alton




  p.s. from Steve Walker:

This is a tribute to Alan C Brown, who was a tremendous encouragement and influence upon me as a young poet on Tyneside and a passionate believer that poetry had a power to transform lives and worlds.

Friday, 14 April 2017

FROM THE POET'S MOUTH


From the poet’s mouth: Poetry, culture and the literary scene in Tübingen (Poetry reading, 26th and 27th April)

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Colourful houses by the river in Tubingen
Neckarfront Tübingen, by Felix König (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Is there something divine in everyday life? Is there a source of human cognition and feelings? On 26 and 27 April, two young writers from the University of Tübingen will read from their works and discuss their influences and linguistic ideas. The writers come to Durham City in the context of a civic literary partnership that began in 1969. This event is organised by Dr Keith Armstrong, Northern Voices Community Projects. Manuela Schmidt studies study art history and anthropology and takes inspiration from “encounters and chats with people from all over the world with extraordinary world views, open hearts and minds; language barriers and dictionaries”.
Florian Neuner’s PhD is in Philosophy on Fichte and Hölderlin. His inspiration comes from “the shattered individual and intellectual; own demons of the subconscious. Is there something divine in everyday life? Is there a source of human cognition and feelings? Literature is a created furyhouse of human experience: a creation of space and a space of creation.”
The writers come to Durham City in the context of a civic literary partnership that began in 1969; further information about this partnership can be found here. Durham University and the University of Tübingen also share an evolving university partnership through the Matariki Network of Universities.
The readings will take place in Elvet Riverside 149 on Wednesday, 26 April from 4pm to 6pm and St Chad’s College Chapel on Thursday, 27 April at 6pm. All are welcome and there is no booking required. For further information please call Dr Keith Armstrong, Northern Voices Community Projects, on 0191 2529531.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

THE YEAR OF THE OX






























THE YEAR OF THE OX


It was 1789 the Year of the Great Ox,
the year the beast got loose in Paris,
when Whitley Bay was sleeping.
The year of the storming,
when John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge,
his heart breaking with painting visions;
the year of the slaying
of old regimes
when royalty hung in the slaughterhouse.
The Ox walked seven days,
like a doomed aristocrat
to have its tallow used to light the night,
to show the way
for the Rights of Man,
to sacrifice its beastly life
to keep a candle burning
and give us hope
and faith and charity,
a glint from God
and a gleam in Thomas Bewick’s eye
as he engraved the swollen moment
for all to see.


KEITH ARMSTRONG


THROUGH THE EYES OF A GREAT OX


Exhausted,
what could you see?
The mob grabbing your life,
and Tom Horsley’s butcher’s axe
hanging over your great spirit
as you valiently strode
the mucky road,
along the throbbing seashore,
through the pestilence of Tyneside,
its filth and flames,
its poisoned air and quack’s potions,
its Geordie beauty and debauch.

Edward Hall thought he owned you.
After a few beers, he thought the very universe was his.
But you, my sturdy fellow, were your own Ox
and could see the folly
of the swinish multitude
as it came to get you
to rip out your guts
and feed the Duke and Duchess,
and all their grasping subjects,
to satiate their appalling vanity.

You had more dignity than them.
You gave up your animal life
for others.
While Eddie Hall he died in pomp,
you, my massive beauty, were unselfish,
a Great Beast
full of love,
the very meat
of life itself
in all its morning glory,
in all its starry wonder;
the wide and beautiful sky
through the miraculous eyes of an Ox.


KEITH ARMSTRONG


THE CONSTITUTION OF AN OX


It had the Constitution of an Ox:

Girth at the belly 10 feet 9 inches
Girth at the loins 10 feet 4 inches
Girth at the shoulders 10 feet 3 inches
Girth behind the shoulders 9 feet 9 inches
Breadth at the hips 3 feet
Breadth at the shoulders 2 feet 6 inches
Height at the fore-crop 5 feet 9 iches
Height at the loins 5 feet 11 inches
Height from the ground to the breast 1 feet 6 inches
Weight 216 stones 8lbs.

That was the Constitution of the Ox.
The track record, shape, volume, build, realm, history, cut and nub of it, the scale of things, the order of the Ox, the full measure of the beast drawn by Thomas Bewick for all of us in awe of it, in a world that never ceases, to astonish.



KEITH ARMSTRONG