Monday, 19 June 2017

WALLINGTON MORNING










WALLINGTON MORNING

‘But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.' (George Orwell).

I stood at your door,
knocked in the English sunshine,
bowed to greet you
but could not hear
the chatter
from your typewriter
or the rain pecking
at the tin roof,
only the plummet of the leaves
brushing against my face
and the birds
falling over the fields.

Thought of you and Jack Common,
shaking hands
in open debate,
patched sleeves
damp on the bar counter,
ploughing through
tracts of history,
eyes on the horizon
looking for War
and bombs
over Datchworth's spire.

This magic morning,
clear sky in our hearts.
No September showers,
only goats bleating,
a horse trotting
down the lane
and, in the day dream,
St Mary's bells
glistening
with Eileen asleep
in the clouds.

What should I say?
We are weak.
I know you were awkward
but, like Jack, full of love.
Out of bullets,
flowers may grow;
out of trenches,
seeds.
The roses
and acorns of thoughts
you planted
those years ago
in Kits Lane,
nourish us now
in these brief minutes,
gifts
from your writing hand
farming for words,
the eggs of essays,
the jam on your fingers.

You were scraping a book together,
smoking the breath
out of your collapsing lungs,
taking the world
on your creaking bent shoulders,
riding across fields
for friends,
bones aching,
fighting to exist
in the cold breeze.

Still the Simpson's Ale
was good in the Plough,
the old laughter still
flying down this Wallington lane,
with the crackling children
sparkling
on an idyllic day.

Enjoy this beauty,
it will turn to pain.
Sing your folk songs,
dig your garden,
dance in your brain.
Graft and graft
until all the breath is gone.
Leave a brave mark
in the dust
round Animal Farm.

What a good thing
to be alive
where songbirds soar
and daffodils nod.
Over the slaughter
of motorways,
we are following
your large footprints
into this bright countryside
where good people
adopt another's children
and still
fall in love
with England.



KEITH ARMSTRONG






Written after visiting Orwell’s cottage in Wallington, Hertfordshire, where he lived with Eileen O’Shaughnessy and which was looked after for him by fellow writer Jack Common in 1938.
























(for

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

SPLINTERS (FOR MY FATHER)



 




































(FOR MY FATHER)

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.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

‘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.’

Monday, 29 May 2017

HIER KOTZTE GOETHE (GOETHE PUKED HERE)






 




























‘About Goethe, the legend says that he was invited to stay here in Tuebingen for a while but on the very first day that he was walking around he couldn't stand the smell of the open channels and did what he had to do.’

Goethe puked here
he did.
Poured out a tide of words
on the street.
Couldn’t stand the smell of war,
the decay of stinking empires,
ugly whiff of bad poetry.
He did,
he puked on Tuebingen,
on all the drivel
coursing from the normal text books.
He had to.
To keep his guts open to the theory of beauty,
vomit out the wretched ugliness
from this town’s pouting ulcers.
Clear ‘Coin Alley’
for all the shouting children
to dance along,
for his mate Schiller to rhyme by,
for the swifts to sing
over it all,
over and over again
in this distinct order of loveliness.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

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.