Welcome to the Armstrong-Dixon Line where North East England based writer Keith Armstrong and artist Peter Dixon share their views on the world and all that surrounds it.
Expect rants, politics, poetry, history, photography and all sorts of........stuff.
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,
like old dictators,
as young Cuba
MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTION, MONCADA BARRACKS
Here there are:
remnants of scorched earth
the Guerillas chewed
All enclosed in;
a shot-up barracks
you can now see children through.
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
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.
whose dreams go on
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
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).
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.
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
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…”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
THROUGH THE EYES OF A GREAT OX
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
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.
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.
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.