Friday, 24 February 2017

LEAVING FRIENDS/FRIENDS LEAVING


































 

(in memory of Paddy Bort)


I have lost my roaring boys and girls.
They are left behind,
fallen from Collegium stools;
the poignant moments in Lange Gasse dust.
Times and laughter shared,
dwindled to an Ammer trickle
in a bleak semester,
worn out days.

Friends are for leaving.
I’m afraid
I am too old to chase it.
These young Swabian mistresses
are too damned quick
for me to grab anymore
their lightning glances,
hints of a possible romance
boarding trains,
flickering
in frigid seminar rooms.

Tear yourself from me
as I stumble
through security.
I know I’ll miss
your touch.

Horst has gone with Hades bar
and the old man
from the Boulanger;
Mick has flown
to the heavens,
now Paddy has fallen,
with all those twinning hours.

Nothing is still.
Her eyelashes flicker,
new wounds open;
the light streams on Wilhelmstrasse,
darkness fills Hafengasse.

A special sunlight
sparkles in my beer,
shafts of it
dart on the counter.
A bird flaps
across my face,
shadow
of a former glory.

So that’s the story:
we lose it all,
we lose everything
and everyone.
It’s why I cling
to the night wind
beating against my cheeks,
to the whisper of the leaves
along this dull suburban street.

The old voices
of mates I made
howling
through the mediocrity
of lonely petrol stations,
soul-destroying car parks.

Puddles
of former joy
winking at the moon.





KEITH ARMSTRONG


Allan Savage I've just been reading your excellent memory to Paddy Bort and came across your farewell to my best friend Jack Routledge. It really brought a tear to my eye. I think about Jack very often and the good times we had singing together. I can remember when Jack and you went to Germany, and how he was so excited when telling me about your trip. Thanks again Keith.

Cath Campbell Ah, Keith. Ah, Godammit. You made me cry. Beautiful poem. Brought my own memories of the gone ones roaring back. 

Harry Gallagher Lovely stuff Keith. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

GORDON PHILLIPS - TYNESIDE POET (1949 - 2017): IN MEMORIAM






























































Gordon Phillips – Tyneside Poet



I first met Gordon in the early 1970s, both of us “incumdons” to the North East, he from St. Albans while I’d arrived from Burnley. It was poetry that brought us together as active members of The Tyneside Poets.

We shared the ethos of taking poetry away from the self-regarding circles of academe and the cliques to encourage a wider participation. At the same time we developed and honed our own poetic voices.

Gordon’s verse always had a strong musical current pulsing through it and he went on to work with composers to produce work that was lyrical and had strong strains of North Eastern traditions and heritage running through it.

True to the belief in encouraging others we worked together on two anthologies of young people’s poetry under a small press imprint, Pivot Press. For the first one we had a goodly number of contributions and the detailed planning of the anthology was well underway. What we didn’t have was a title. Then Gordon received an envelope with a couple of good poems in it.

The accompanying letter also proved significant. The boy, early teens, was enthusiastic about the possibility of having a poem or two published. However, he was somewhat concerned about how he might be perceived by his peers. This led him to write that he’d be really pleased if we used one of his poems but, “…don’t tell my friends.” Both editions of “Don’t Tell My Friends” were very successful.

Before I left Tyneside in 2012 Gordon had been showing me a poetic project he was working on with St. Mary’s lighthouse in Whitley Bay as its focus. Recently, almost five years later he gave me a copy of the CD, “The Square and Compass”: the project was completed and set to music. A grand piece of work.

Unfortunately, the CD has been followed far too quickly with bad news. On Sunday, 5th February 2017, the illness Gordon had alerted me to finally claimed him. Perhaps it is always too soon, but this is truly so. On my last visit with him he told me of other projects he still had in mind and I had hoped he might at least be able to bring some of them to fruition. It is not to be.

However, as a poet his voice, Gordon’s words, will live on. It was poetry that brought us together, sustained our long friendship and will remain to speak to me.


Dave Alton




POEM FOR GORDON (1949-2017)


Across a Fenham avenue,
through the pools of stars in your eyes,
the seering light of your vision,
I saw your finely hewed words running towards me,
a crystal stream
tearing along these Newcastle lanes.
We tripped along together
in huddled poetry readings,
throbbing public houses
and ancient mansions,
searching for images
to make our days
brighter,
longing for a folk song
to drink with
in the approaching darkness.
Searching,
always searching,
for the right words
to sing to our loved ones,
we crossed the sea
to fulfil our dreams
from the flat land of East Anglia
into the arms of Scandinavia,
returning with that smile of yours
still intact,
beaming with the sun
breaking up the clouds
on any dogged northern day
in your adopted home,
lending a sparkle to Grainger Street,
a twinkle to our beer;
the joy of a lasting friend,
the spilt dreams
forever flowing with us.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG




THE TREATMENT BELL (GORDON'S FINAL POEM)

 

On the side wall, beside the reception

hangs the treatment bell,

pristine, silver,

its shine an encouraging glow.



Before it, hopeful patients sit.

The next ringer strikes a note for them all:

a customary three times

for an end of plan toll,

excitement measured in the hammering and applause.

 



Gordon Phillips, 18th December 2016


Note from Maureen Phillips:

The first time Gordon and I heard the three rings of the bell was on his first visit to the Department of Radiation Oncology for consultative purposes to evaluate and determine his most optional treatment.  

The inscription on the bell is:
Ring this bell
Three times well
It's toll to clearly say
My treatment's done
This course is run
And I am on my way

 



FOR THOMAS BEWICK

 

In your precious art you raised
delicate species fresh, alive
with every searching niche of blade,
on metalled tints of bone
in flesh, conceived.

Today, our clear eye can review
that aggregate of animals
and speading plants which grew;
now your thoughts to Cherryburn
are our adoption.

Through sludge of field flung back
from my drag of parting feet,
crossing rutted rural lands
you swept in light and shade,
a lock of trees
inside a border to engrave.


 

Gordon Phillips

(as read by Dave Alton at Gordon's funeral on Thursday 16th February 2017 at St Robert of Newminster Roman Catholic Church,  Newcastle upon Tyne)

Friday, 10 February 2017

AFTER THE UK

















































Shreds of the UK
flapping in the downturn,
decayed Britain
broken into smithereens.
No Kingdom now,
no United State.
We are
citizens
with no obligation
to genuflect
in front of an overstuffed Queen.

Get the UK out of your system,
no going back.
We take the power
to rule ourselves,
make community,
build our own spaces.
Break
the hegemony
of dead parties,
lifeless institutions,
let debate flower,
conflicting views rage.

We want to breathe
and strip away
executive power,
share
the beauty and culture
of these islands
around.
Make good things,
good love.
Empower ourselves
with an autonomous freedom
in a new England,
in a new Europe,
in a New World
of real ownership
and delicate emotion.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

Saturday, 4 February 2017

VAN GOGH



































(1)

Years ago Van Gogh the marksman
hijacked a low flying plane and
forced its pilot to fly to the sun:

a few Dutch masterpieces were all that survived,
a few flakes of experience,

sunlight
trapped on the wing.


(2)*

His canvas bleeds,
black gun lies frozen by his side.
His heart falls
broken
from the butcher's cart,
slides
onto the infested street
and in his paint
metal vultures skid,
Van Gogh
stirring it up again.


*The original inspiration for this poem came from a chance observation of what looked like a sheep's heart lying in the middle of a Newcastle street. Evidently fallen debris from a passing vehicle, its blood spattered the road as cars darted over and around it. The following quotation from Artaud's essay 'Van Gogh, the man suicided by society' discovered shortly after the completion of the poem is also relevant: 'Van Gogh was terribly sensitive. To be convinced of this just look at his seemingly panting face, which is also, from certain angles, the spellbinding face of a butcher.'



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Saturday, 28 January 2017

MAP OF THE WORLD




























 









We turned its global head as babies,

traced its edges onto paper,

scarcely scratched

the surface

of that old familiar spotted face

shaped up, boiling for a fight.



Hung on walls,

it looked so static

but in its latitudes and longitudes we knew

that people moved,

homes grew,

cities drowned

and cliffs broke.



Later, travelling,

we stepped out

across the sheet,

skipped the Channel,

entered 

new squares.

Then creeping back

at dusk,

we folded up this map,

packed away the ice

and sunny beach,

stuck it all in a small back pocket

and shrunk back

into our own world’s frontiers.

That tiny territory

of our scars.







KEITH ARMSTRONG

Sunday, 22 January 2017

STELLA OF ROSE STREET




























(in memory of Stella Cartwright, 1937-1985)


“Dear George, it is so strange, our souls seem to fly together joyously over mountains and seas while each of us in our mutual way suffers agonies.”
(Stella Cartwright)

"An orgasm with Miss Cartwright was metaphysical, transcendental, like nothing else you can ever imagine. She seemed built for love."
(Stanley Roger Green)

“You placed me on a pedestal / according to my lights / but what you didn’t know, my dear / I have no head for heights.”
(Norman MacCaig)


It was so much gabble,
fantasies of genius in the Little Kremlin.
Once, I fell for it myself,
tottering along the red carpet,
poetry dribbling into my own vomit,
or maybe it was Hugh’s,
all mixed up
in the whisky of empty promises.
I talked in Milne’s Bar to a shop steward
who’d help build MacDiarmid’s bog.
He said the workmen had their tea in Grieve’s posh wee cups
and saw the reckoning in the leaves.
He yapped as auld poets glowered from their photos
and we downed chilled ale
to drown the memories of a Juniper Green girl
with a pint of that Muse again.
They must have seen joy in you our Stella
to wrench them from their word play,
to take a lovely shag to brighten up their anxious lines.
Och the happiness and the pain
of drinking
that smiler with the knife
come to get us all.
And that lonely honey George
must have driven you nuts
romancing you in the Pentland Hills
and kissing you full on your lips
one damp Saturday afternoon
by the Water of Leith.
They say ‘the best poem is silence’
but you were a shriek in the ecstasy
of loving and of agony,
a naked drunken howl.
The saintly saviour of hurt animals
and a shopper for the sick,
you wanted to wrap yourself around
something you could trust,
wanted a photograph of a true poetry lover
held to your lovely breasts
to make a change from the piss
of Milne’s Bar
and the daily Abbotsford drivel.
What you found was madness in a Zimmer Frame at thirty,
splashes of alcohol and tears lit
by the sudden flashes of beautiful orgasms,
the sunshine today
in all the muck
along Rose Street.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

As published in Scottish Review 16th December 2010 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

JAZZ POETRY BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG







 































FEATURING:

JAZZ POEMS:
Keith Armstrong and the Don Forbes Trio

FOLK MUSIC:
The Sawdust Jacks
Ann Sessoms (Pipes)

POETRY:
Dave Alton
Robert Lonsdale
Gordon Phillips
Katrina Porteous

Trev Teasdel
Rob Walton
Dominic Windram



THE RED HOUSE, QUAYSIDE, NEWCASTLE WEDNESDAY 25TH JANUARY 2017 7.30PM 

ADMISSION FREE

FURTHER INFO: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL 0191 2529531




from the archive: poetry meets jazz

LAUNCH OF A UNIQUE POETRY & JAZZ COLLABORATION

FEATURING:

THE NEW SAFE SEXTET

WITH NORTH EAST POETS:

KEITH ARMSTRONG,  JOHN EARL ,  IAN HORN ,  MICHAEL STANDEN.

SPECIAL GUESTS:  JACKIE KAY,  FRANK MESSINA.

BRIDGE HOTEL,  NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE , THURSDAY 5TH DECEMBER 2002.

THE BAND:

Trumpet                              Don Forbes
Tenor Saxophone              John Rowland
Alto Saxophone                 Paul Gowland
Baritone Saxophone         Danny Veitch
Guitar                                 Andy Pattinson
Bass Guitar                        Stuart Davies
Piano                                  Alan Laws
Percussion                        Dave Francis

POETRY & MUSIC SET:

1. ‘Because I Drink Too Much’ by Keith Armstrong; music composed by Don Forbes, using ‘Bah Lues For U’s’.
2. ‘Afternoon In Amsterdam Bar’ by Ian Horn; music ‘Little Blue Eyes’ composed by Don Forbes.
3. ‘Sugar Daddy’ by Ian Horn; music composed by Don Forbes.
4. ‘The Poet Of Rain’ by John Earl; music composed by Don Forbes.
5. ‘Drips’ by Michael Standen; music ‘Rollano’ composed by Juan Lazaro Menadas.
6. ‘New Idea’ by Michael Standen; music composed by Don Forbes.
7. ‘The 8.5 Brought Us Ears And Feet’ by John Earl; music ‘Mark Time’ composed by Kenny Wheeler.
8. ‘Lockerbie’ by Keith Armstrong; music composed by Don Forbes. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

MY FATHER WORKED ON SHIPS


 


























My father worked on ships.
They spelked his hands,
dusted his eyes, his face, his lungs.

Those eyes that watered by the Tyne
stared out to sea
to see the world
in a tear of water, at the drop
of an old cloth cap.

For thirty weary winters
he grafted
through the snow and the wild winds
of loose change.

He was proud of those ships he built,
he was proud of the men he built with,
his dreams sailed with them:
the hull was his skull,
the cargo his brains.

His hopes rose and sunk
in the shipwrecked streets
of Wallsend
and I look at him now
this father of mine who worked on ships
and I feel proud
of his skeletal frame, this coastline
that moulded me
and my own sweet dreams.

He sits in his retiring chair,
dozing into the night.
There are storms in his head
and I wish him more love yet.

Sail with me,
breathe in me,
breathe that rough sea air old man,
and cough it up.

Rage, rage
against the dying
of this broken-backed town,
the spirit
of its broken-backed
ships.

 


Keith Armstrong
 



Allan Dennis Brockbank I always did like your poetry how you doing?

Mo Shevis Bought 'Imagined Corners' recently and was pleased to see this poem there, having read it previously online. When I read it last week at my poetry reading group it was very well received.! It is a powerful piece Keith. We are all of an age to remember the old industries,proud of our heritage and those who worked in them. Thankfully we have people like you to record such images and memories for posterity.


Derek Young What a poem. So evocative of those days. I worked at Parsons Marine Turbine Company as an apprentice marine engineer. My girl friend was a trainee tracer at Swan Hunters.

Michael McNally Hi Keith,Thank you for sending this wonderful piece of work in my direction.

JANIS BLOWER:
HAVE YOUR SAY
IT’S gratifying to see that on-line readers have taken an interest in one or two topics recently
One was that smashing poem, My Father Worked on Ships, by Keith Armstrong, in which correspondent, Geordiman, reckons he recognised himself in its depiction of an old shipyard hand.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

OLD STATIONS


























(for Kathleen Sisterson)




There’s an old station

I keep dreaming of

where I wandered

as a child;

flower baskets

seep with longing

and engines

pant with steam.

It might have been

at Chollerton,

in a summer’s field,

when I realised

how good 

life could be,

in the sunshine

of my songs;

or it might have been

at Falstone

where the roses

smelt of smoke

and I felt

the breath of railwaymen

wafting in my hair.

This little boy,

with his North Tyne lilt

and the dialect

of ancients,

ran up the platform

of his life

and chased

the racing clouds.

It was a first taste

of Kielder Forest

and the light

that skimmed the hills

and the engine

rattled through the day

to drive me 

to my roots:

to Deadwater

and Saughtree,

the hours flew

for miles

and the railway

ran into my veins

and sparked 

history in my soul.

In this album

of a fragile world,

I’d like to leave 

these lines 

for you to find

in Bellingham

or Wark,

a tune to play

in Reedsmouth

in Woodburn 

or in Wall.

Along this route, 

I hope you'll find

a glimpse of me in youth;

the smiling child,

inside the man,

who took the train

by chance

and found his way 

with words

and leaves

to Thorneyburn 

and Riccarton,

along the tracks

of dreams.







KEITH ARMSTRONG




Beautiful and evocative. (Conrad Atkinson)

Thanks for your wonderful poem 'Old Stations'. It's a truly moving piece of work, tapping childhood nostalgia but in away that seems naturally to a young imagination being born of the lore and physicality of the trains and railway stations. (Noel Duffy)

Really liked that one, so descriptive, I could see it all in my mind’s eye! (Marie Little)





Wonderfully evocative, Keith. (Sid Smith)



Like it! (Pete Thompson)


It's great Keith! (Peter Common)

As ever, a lovely poem & one I can easily relate to. (Geoff Holland)









(from forthcoming book and film -
written for an exhibition at Bellingham Heritage Centre, June 2013)