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)

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

BURNS NIGHT EVENT

































BURNS NIGHT: A LITTLE CELEBRATION - WITH POEMS, JAZZ AND FOLK MUSIC!


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
Paul Summers
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

Monday, 19 December 2016

DREAMING OF JACK COMMON



 








































I dreamt I glimpsed Jack Common on a train.
He had his nose stuck in a book;
the Newcastle rain seeped from his eyes.
Jack looked sad
and I dreamt he sleepwalked across the station bridge
and staggered down The Side;
he’d had a drink,
and couldn’t believe
the things he saw.
He bowled along the corridors through Milburn House
and stalked the nightmare of his past;
all around him fell bulldozed history
and his suit shook with soot.
He sensed a shallowness in the air,
a city with its guts ripped out.
He blinked at the scale of the new Law Courts
and thought of battles the workers lost:
Sons of the Battleaxe,
bands of brass.

The Tyne slid by him
and his big heart
swelled with the agony of years;
a great history swilling in his veins
and the banks of the river cleansed
for millionaires.
We live in hope I would suppose
but how many games must we Geordies lose?
Jack looked down at his shredded roots
and felt his home city shudder with pain.
It was the ache of the starving in an age of plenty,
the shudder of a rudderless future:
the Johnny Riddle trickle of the lonely Ouseburn
running
down the drain.


 

Keith Armstrong

Sunday, 11 December 2016

ELVET BRIDGE

























 













(inspired by Guillaume Apollinaire)


Under Elvet Bridge the rain
flows with our loves.
Must I recall again?
Joy always used to follow after pain.

The days pass, the weeks pass
all in vain.
Neither time spent nor misspent
nor love comes back again.

Under Elvet Bridge the rain
flows with our loves.
Must I recall again?
Joy always used to follow after rain.




Keith Armstrong






Durham photos by Peter Dixon

Sunday, 27 November 2016

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.





KEITH ARMSTRONG


photos: Dr Keith Armstrong

Monday, 21 November 2016

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

Read your 'My father worked on ships' as one of my choices at our poetry reading group last week, it went down very well!! 

Mo Shevis

Hello! came across your website and really enjoyed above poem. I am now living in the United States having been transplanted from Wallsend, that would be in 1949. I have wonderful memories of my childhood in Wallsend and also High Farm and your poem really piqued my interest...my dear Dad worked for Swan Hunter for many years, he was a shipwright and I remember with great thrill and anticipation, seeing the ships that he helped build being launched. Thanks for the memories! Awa the lads!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

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

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS



The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.


KEITH ARMSTRONG






Monday, 24 October 2016

TOMMY ON THE BRIDGE




 

























TOMMY ON THE BRIDGE*

You were a miner’s son,
blinded
in the fertile seam they dragged you from
to beg out your time
on the backs of bridges
that joined others
but left you split,
splay-footed between rough stones
and the snapping tomes
of the Law of the Land
and the Water.

Your wore a casual cloth cap
that muffled your bruised head.
Your trousers sagging at your feet,
you filled that dingy trench coat of yours
reluctantly;
resigned to see life life through,
with only coins for eyes
and a bridging loan to buy
derelict clothes.

At Swing or High Level,
you found a market;
a centrepoint for the rich
to lighten their swollen burden
of conscience a trifle.
And you ‘bored’ yourself
with a dignity that rejected buttons
and accepted only the silver linings
of fat pockets,
bred on a Victorian plenty
and plenty of paupers like you.

You buried your stubbled face
in the crowds that swam the Tyne.
Years across now,
you finally supped
your last cracked gill
of darkness.

And they picked you
neatly from the swollen gutter;
linked your broken hands at rest
to bridge
an empty chest.


KEITH ARMSTRONG



* Thomas Ferens (1841-1907). Born blind and begged on Newcastle’s High Level & Swing Bridges