It was the month of the asparagus
and you kissed me by the river
with the rain flowing down your face.
It was the day you burst
like a volcano,
gushing all over me
as we ran
in the sky weeping all over us
and in the laughter of children
splashing in the damp raging day.
It was the month of the asparagus
when our dreams landed
through the attic window of Lange Gasse 18.
It was the day my heart rang
with all the bells of Tuebingen
and my bones ached
with the weight of memory,
the sad loss,
hanging over us
a mountainous cloud of longing,
full with the tangy moisture
of new songs and poems.
It was the month of the asparagus
when I zoomed in to meet you
with my arms open to the grand afternoon.
O what a day
when I came again to see you
with my heart heavy,
riddled with the seeds
of creative delight and the light
of a stream of wondrous moments
the length of Wilhelmstrasse,
into the very realms of hope.
Posted by keith armstrong at 11:58 am
'Keith Armstrong has more aliases than a man on the
run.' (Graeme Rigby, The Page, Northern Echo).
'No one in the North East has written and read and
encouraged and organised so consistently and over so
long a period as Keith Armstrong. His poetry is
different, original, and politically exhilarating.’
'It doesn't matter which way his poems are facing, or
the subjects they address, it is recognisibly the same
sensibility, each part of a unified whole, and unified
by the same, strong identifiable voice.' (Andy Croft).
‘There is an exciting sense of releasing the dreams
and perceptions from the ‘wee corners’ of his mind -
and the result is the honesty, humanity, sharpness of
vision and richness of humour which he makes available
for readers to share.’(Professor Helen Wilcox, Head of
English Department, University of Groningen).
‘Keith’s poems raised goose pimples but also thoughts
about today’s culture.’ (Peter Lewis, Hexham Courant).
'Keith Armstrong made a splendid contribution to the
success of this year's Festival. The audience was
delighted with the programme. I had lots of
enthusiastic feedback in the subsequent days.'
(Gordon Parsons, Programme Director, Cheltenham
Festival of Literature).
'We love the way Keith puts feelings in all his
poems.' (Children from Gilesgate Junior School,
'I think it's an eye-opener that poetry can be fun.
What time at the Irish Pub?' (Ingrid Wotterba, Wessel
Gansfort College, Groningen).
'Keith's poetry is sometimes poignant, occasionally
savage and always written from his own off-beat
perspective.' (Lin O'Hara, Northern Review).
'Keith is a noted Geordie wordsmith, a bloke whose
musings were always radical, though of their place.'
(Folk Roots magazine).
'A noble dissident.' (Poet Brendan Cleary).
'A genial rogue.' (Councillor Ken Manton, Durham County Council).
‘The British Council considers itself fortunate indeed
to work in collaboration with Keith who has enabled
those who have connections with the British Council to
learn something of the local identity and heritage as
well as the international dimension which Keith brings
to his work.’ (Jan Long, Regional Manager, Yorkshire
and the North East, The British Council).
‘When all the rat-faced boys were snuffling at their
mothers'paps, Keith Armstrong was hammering out his
own particular brand of urban socialism, its roots
embedded in Newcastle and his love-hate relationship
with his home city.
Keith is an enigma, a peripatetic people's poet, whose
poems were firebrands that pointed the way for a whole
generation of poets. Keith made a lot of things
possible for myself and many others like me. I don’t
mind admitting that without Keith I would have given
up poetry as a waste of life years ago. Listen to the
lilt of Keith's voice, it is the true voice of
humanity from the pavement philosopher who has lost
everything to the rake internationalist trawling the
bars of Europe in search of poetry and love.’ (Kevin
Cadwallender, General Editor, Sand magazine).
‘There are those who tell the terrible truth in all
its loveliness. Keith Armstrong is one of them, a fine
poet who refuses to turn his back on the wretched of
the Earth. He is one of the best and I hope his voice
will be heard more and more widely.’ (Adrian Mitchell,
'Keith is a real artist.' (Margit Aldinger, Cultural
'I'm told that if the Labour Party is looking for a
wandering poet I must put Keith Armstrong top of the
list'. (Tony Blair).
'I don't think Keith is a person who is easily
defeated through life as he is, by nature, a peacock
which shows at times its beautiful feathers. It never
goes unnoticed.' (Margaretha den Broeden,
'A Master Showman.' (Dr Charley Rowe, Department of
English, University of Newcastle upon Tyne).
'Fortunately that evening people came and you were
brilliant - - - this is not happening every day.'
(Jakub Zahradnik, Poetry Cafe Obratnik, Prague).
'I wish the very honourable poet Mr Keith Armstrong
good luck for all the seasons in his life and always a
high inspiration for his poems.' (Jochen from the
'Here's to Keith and all the aborigines!' (Zenida
'Keith is a very talented, inspirational and committed
writer who contributes enormously to the promotion of
Northumbrian culture - but also to the cause of poetry
in general. His poems moved us with a gutsy pungent
vigour which made us laugh - and think! However, he
also made us brood, as for example in the moving
tribute to lifeboat heroine Grace Darling.' (Suzette
Hill, Friends of the Dymock Poets, Gloucestershire).
'Just a quick message to say how much I enjoyed your
performance at Riverlines here in York. I had a great
evening and it was refreshing to go to an event where
there is some sort of coherent narrative running
through it, rather than a series of unrelated verses.
For once at a poetry reading, I didn't find myself
drifting off out over the Ouse!' (David Cooper,
Literature Development Officer, York City Council).
'Jingling Geordie! Rising sun of the North. Poetry
spins around him. He'll write it, read it, perform it,
organise it, teach it and even drink with it! If he
can still stand up after that, he'll publish it. When
he performs with music clocks lose sense of time.
A swashbuckling oxymoron with golden heart. See him,
book him and buy his book.'
(Trev Teasdel ,Poet & Co-Organiser, Writers' Cafe,
'Thank you so much for a fantastic night. Your set was
brilliant and you were worth every penny.' (Paul
Williams, Writers' Cafe, Arc, Stockton).
'We loved to have you. The response was very positive.
Did you understand anything of the words Menno Wigman
said to you? He said your poetry was very good! My
friend Marcel voted for you!' (Henriette Faas, Cafe
'It really was such a lovely evening, wasn't it? I got
such lovely feedback from so many of the people who
came, all so glad they came. I still laugh when I
think how you impersonated Swinburne, all little
behind the lectern, so that all we could see was the
very tippy top of your head. Probably the first ever
funny impersonation of Swinburne. And the briefest.
But I bet the best, too!' (Mary Manley, Barter Books,
'A unique performance. A touch of class from Newcastle
upon Tyne for the Unfringed Festival.' (Barney
Sheehan, The White House, Limerick, Ireland).
'Keith Armstrong's 'Imagined Corners' is immediately
touching. He is good at writing about sex and his
night-out-on-the-lash poems strike a chord as well.'
(The Crack magazine, Newcastle upon Tyne).
'In another part of the field, another field, let's
face it, sits Keith Armstrong's rakish gaff. (His)
poems are rooted in the Tyneside music hall tradition,
closely behind which was the august balladry of the
Borders. His is an unashamed bardic stance, actor
rather than commentator. His politics are personal.
Throughout the collection the authentic lyrical note
of this northern poet is struck.' (Michael Standen,
'Keith Armstrong is, as one of the poems attests,
“both happy and sad”. He occupies that tormented space
where most politicised optimists live;a land where
hope and defeat, love and hate, beauty and pain
co-exist relentlessly in an uneasy marriage.The poems
read like postcards from an alternative grand tour,
journal entries from another, more innocent, time,
when the world spun more slowly and we had time to
befriend strangers and notice things. There are echoes
of Baudelaire, of Brecht, Byron and Shelley in some of
the poems. Sometimes nostalgic, poignant reflections
on love, friendship and identity; sometimes the lament
of the defeated. Other times, poems drip with the
bellicose pride of the Jingling Geordie, ringing out
like a challenge. This collection paints Armstrong as
the maturing internationalist leafing through a cache
of dusty photographs, celebrating people and places, a
world of anecdote and adventure,strong drink and life
itself. More importantly though, many of the poems in
Imagined Corners reveal him as a subtle observer of
beauty whether he chooses to do so from the position
of global citizen, mourner, lover, friend or son.'
(Paul Summers, Dream Catcher).
'A lovely piece of work.' (Alan Plater).
'Thank you so much for a wonderful performance of your
work. I had so many positive responses from my German
friends. The poems about Kitty and Newcastle were
particularly poignant for me.
What brilliant organisation and presentation on your
part.' (David Biermann, Stockach, Germany).
'I've been reading Keith Armstrong's poems - I am
impressed with their vitality, they leap up
from the page.' (Gabriel Griffin, Lake Orta Poetry
'Thank you for making yesterdays event at Amble
Library a very enjoyable experience for all those who
attended. Well after you left our readers discussed
poetry amongst each other. I look forward to seeing
you again in the future.' (Karen Sutcliffe, Library
Supervisor - North Group, Northumberland County
'Armstrong's poetry is the window opened to let out
fetid air and everyone feels their lethargy evaporate.
Although he's been writing and performing for over
thirty years, he's still a marginal figure. Shame on
the poetry czars!
A joyous, subversive, delightful, unpretentious,
funny, anarchistic free spirit underpins Armstrong's
work. It will cheer you up.
His poems are technically achieved, funny, witty,
touching, and sufficiently various for there to be
something to light up every brain which responds to
One way to make the world better would be to give
poets as good as Armstrong their due.'
(Alan Dent, Editor, The Penniless Press).
'Keith Armstrong was in fine form on Tuesday at
Shakespeare & Sons.' (Patrick Seguin, Prague).
'An okay guy and a good cultural liaison between
Prague and Newcastle.' (Ken Nash, Alchemy Prague).
'When an artist and a poet combine their love of sea
and coastline with their creative talents you are
going to have a pretty powerful exposition.
This is what happened when Keith Armstrong met up with
Rolf Wojciechowski. Tideline is a forty metre long
text sculpture laid along the shores of the N.E.
Coastline, complete with paintings and poems of the
sea.' (Lou Pickering, The Ambler).
'We had a great time in Newcastle and we want to come
back in the summer to
walk the Hadrian Wall. You were a fantastic host. As
soon as your
performances are arranged you will hear from me.'
(Ronald Ohlsen, City Poet of Groningen, Newcastle's
twin city in The Netherlands).
'Thanks you very much for coming and reading your
poems - lots of people commented on how much they
enjoyed them.' (Mary Lewis, Northumberland Coast Area
of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
'Hi Keith. Went down well - excellent!' (Kevin
Redgrave, National Trust, Northumberland).
'Thanks again for coming down to Sheffield. Quite a
few people have said how much they enjoyed the evening
and hearing your poems. I hope you enjoyed it too.
It was good to hear a direct and engaged voice.'
(Robin Vaughan-Williams, Antics, Sheffield).
'I enjoyed the evening in O'Ceallaighs. It was a good
performance and also very "gezellig" as we say in
Dutch. The exact meaning is - as you know - impossible
to translate!' (Marieke Zwaving, Cultural Officer,
'So wonderfully active. An example to all. Hope to see
you next year.' (Alan Myers).
'I have to start off by admitting that I'm a fan (your
Bleeding Sketches collaboration with the Whisky
Priests was one of the finest albums of the 90s).'
(Russell Thompson, Apples & Snakes, London).
'Enjoyed and appreciated Song for Northumberland!'
(John Burton, Trimdon Labour Party).
'HI Keith, just a quick but, large THANKYOU for your
contribution to Monday night!' (Guy Hudson, The Jolly
Brewer readings, Lincoln).
'Thanks again for the fine performance evening we
enjoyed in the library a couple of weeks ago. I hope
your writing keeps up the passion.' (Mark Pithie,
Springtides Poetry Group, Aberdeen).
'I just wanted to thank you again for Friday night. I
enjoyed the evening and the convivial drink in Barrels
afterwards. I'll be in touch again soon.' (Mike
Greener, Spittal Improvement Trust, Berwick).
'Well, I'm in Joburg so I'm missing tonight's
bash.Hope you manage to have a really good
time of it with the many friends who cherish
you for the impossible and talented and loving
man that you are as well as being a true son
of the river and its many currents.' (Peter Stark).
'Startlingly inventive, Keith Armstrong made a career as a
librarian before the inner poet got the better of him and he
took up writing full time. Some of his work is raunchily
comic, folksy and gutsy but he does have his quieter moments,
as in Song for Northumberland.' (Chris Green, Curator,
'I love the way your work weaves past & present with a
concern for the future - all bound up with a sense of
regionalism - not at all fake, I know that much.'
(Julie Ward, Jack Drum Arts).
'Keith Armstrong is one of the north's longstanding finest poets.'
(Liz Forster, North East History).
'I did a conference paper on poetry of regeneration last week and
used your poem 'an oubliette for kitty' - again, massive
response, lots of quesions and people incredibly moved by your work.'
(Kate Shaw, University of Lancaster).
'Beautiful. Absolutely tremendous. I sit applauding and laughing.'
(Craig Duffy, Drop the Beat Cafe, Leith, Edinburgh).
'Keith is the self styled 'Jinglin` Geordie' on 'European Tour' of poetry
capital cities who sometimes dazzles wonderfully with virtuosity and
'We discussed your work at the Lit and Phil poetry reading group and
likened it to Dylan Thomas. We all enjoyed your session so much.'
(Sheila Naughton, Newcastle upon Tyne City Libraries).
'You give people like me the confidence to believe in ourselves and
get out there. Terrific.' (Catherine Graham).
'Keith is a confident performer unafraid of dialogue with his audience.
His melodious voice carried to the back of the room with clarity and power.'
(Writers' Cafe, Stockton).
'That was a highly entertaining evening. I must try and write some new stuff. I like
your attitude to pretension in poetry/poets- I know exactly what you mean!'
(Mark Pithie, Springtides Poetry, Aberdeen).
'I would like to say a big thank you for your reading last night.
I know everyone enjoyed it and you provided ideas for exercises we could do around
certain themes to get people writing and that was an inspiration. More than that, you
made us all laugh and we all enjoyed the wide range of material you write about
which was great.' (Valerie Apted, Northumberland Writers).
'It was in The Boulanger that we first met. Where else could it have been? Keith Armstrong, it seems,
knows his way about here even better than in many places between Durham in the North-East of England,
Groningen in Friesland, Amiens in Picardie, Berlin in Prussia and, well, Tübingen in Württemberg
(‘to name but a few’). A traveller with an open mind and without any fear of contact; strange lives,
countries and people succumb to his poetic and real incorporation. This is so for the same reason for
which our romantic poets sought out Heaven and every abyss: it is to understand “why I am back on Earth;
must come to know myself and the land that bore me.”
It was a reading, that first time and the performer did not hide behind the customary glass of water,
neither did he sit on a chair, but stood, as he always does. I have experienced it often enough by now
how he explains his poems, how he reassures himself, again and again, of his audience. We are to understand
every aspect and every point. If we don’t, he doubts extensively, himself, the language, the word. Then on
to poem and ballad. Keith Armstrong is a bard, too, who has the knack of writing real songs. That’s why
every place is named, why the names of persons he grants an appearance in verse are correct, why his poems
have historical causes and sometimes take historic shape, just like the performance. Historic.
But one should, while laughing, never forget: this poet is someone who in his biography and work
inseparably unites wit and long gained knowledge, enthusiasm and great talent, pluck and social commitment.....
This is a man who conquers, with his poems and charms, pubs as well as universities. He has always been
an instigator and an actor in social and literary projects, an activist without whom the exchanges between
the twin towns of Durham and Tübingen would be a much quieter affair. That he is a friend of many friends,
able to open the most amazing doors for his guests, can be taken as read. Keith Armstrong’s songs
of a sensitive self in an ugly world and of a beautiful world in an unfathomable self are capable of
opening the hearts of listeners and readers.'
(Uwe Kolbe, Berlin poet).
'Thanks for last night mate, it was great.
I loved that poem about Wallace's right arm.'
'Dear Dr Armstrong,
'I'm messaging you now, simply to say thank you! Having discovered your work
some time ago now, I have become a regular visitor to your space and a keen fan.
It's because of you and your work that i took up writing again and have begun
to actively seek publication. I whole heartedly thank you!'
(Matt "The Rover" Routledge).
'Keith Armstrong certainly hasn't been spending his time cataloguing his prizes......
He has been far too busy having a good time with a panoply of European women......
It is one of his strong points, in poetry that could be simply pornographic,
that he nearly always locates the sexuality in a relationship, however fleeting.'
(Michael Standen, Other Poetry).
'I knew your name as soon as I saw it....you and Mr. Barber saved my life. The Roker Roar
was the beginning of everything for me!' (Viktoria Kay, actress).
'Am still impressed about Herr Huber and that poem about you and the pig-farmers playing in the airplane
.... very very nice and impressive.
I told about your poems Sunday afternoon a friend, she's living in Haren.... . look, what you did... :-)
Was very nice meeting you in the Charly Dickens room in Haren last Friday,
am happy I visited your performance.' (Bernd Eilts, Groningen artist).
'Our latterday Thomas Spence.' (John Charlton, North East History).
'Hello Mr. Armstrong! It was an amazing poetry reading today! I hope I'll see you again on stage.
One of the best English lessons ever! Thank you.' (Philipp K., Neckartenzlingen).
'Keith. So pleased your poetry is for ever appreciated by so many people. Love,
'You're a beautiful spirit, a fantastic poet.' (Katrina Porteous).
'The books are really strong, sensitive and anarchic in equal measure
(much like your good self).' (Paul Summers).
'Poetry from one of my personal favourite poets going, Keith Armstrong.' (Colin Galbraith, Ranfurly Review)
'On another note i would like to thank you for igniting my interest in poetry. To be honest from a young age poetry didn't grab me and I pursued the buzz music gave me, both playing and listening. I have now read the majority of the poems in the two books of yours I have and I am hooked ! It's shameful but I hadn't realised that poetry can grab you like a good book or a piece of music. I can feel the passion and anger and all other emotions you are putting into the poems and I am left in thought afterwards.' (Michael Stephenson).
'Enjoyed reading the books of poems, cover to cover, on the flights to and from Denmark.
Don't know if you'll forgive me if I say that you're a romantic (if an angry romantic!!) .. poems full of passion (joy or anger or both) and particularly enjoyed the sense of place and community (and the attacks on them!) that many of the poems invoke.
Can we ever recover that sense of belonging and shared values amongst the empire of money-fuelled individualism!!
I guess (unfortunately, yet ironically) periods of economic crisis are what bring ordinary people together (but also can lead to the far right getting its dirty hands on things). Let's be optimistic!!' (musician Trevor Wishart).
'Your input and passion for our wonderful culture inspires me very time I see, hear and feel it. And you can guarantee that I am batting for you at every opportunity I get.' (Aidan Oswell).
'You're the beating heart of wor language Keith.' (Aidan Oswell).
'The work, all the way from creativity in your writing across to encouraging others, organising events, and so on, in relation to North East culture is immense, in my humble view. This proud region would be very weakened if people like you did not put so much effort and time and talent into all its various aspects of life, not least its history. One of the best writers we have in our region, in my opinion, and that of many others.' (Brian Hall).
'There is a real zest for life in your poems.' (Michelle Hurley).
'I've never done this in my life - i.e. contact a writer - but felt I really had to thank you for the fabulous poem about the Forth Bridge which appeared in the Scottish Review. It so inspired me that I wanted to hang out the window and shout it across the bay! (I live on a wee island on the west coast.)
Not only do I also love that bridge (I spent my childhood holidays in Fife and always got so excited whenever we crossed it), but I like bridges in general (don't know what that says about me and don't care to find out!). I'm also a Russian speaker and absolutely love Mayakovsky's great poem inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge. Yours is equally inspiring, as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway - all I wanted to do was to congratulate you and say thank you for that truly marvellous poem. It made my day reading it.'
'Wallington Morning - Beautiful! You've still got it, Keith!'
'No one more local or heroic. A rare individual who has fought to ensure his talent reached out to the world. Keith has developed his poetry within a working culture, taking into his unique perspective the passions of working people. See "Splinters" for a taste. Praised by Adrian Mitchell and internationally.' (Matthew Burge)
'I found it extremely difficult to 'define' somebody of your artistic calibre and poetry prowess in just fifty words. However!!, I managed to do it, any award will be well deserved.' (Robert Lonsdale)
'You perhaps are in some ways more attached to 'the world' than I -- you're more politicised, more social -- but you have the same internal conviction, integrity and spirituality which have kept you at it all these years and which mark you out as an artist.' (Katrina Porteous)
'Keith Armstrong, poet of the people. His life’s work is rooted in Tyneside, yet branches out worldwide. Steeped in Newcastle’s history, his poems are bridges into its future.' (Katrina Porteous)
'It seems that not only can you write poetry faster than I can catalogue it, but that there are now more people out there increasing your body of work. Oh dear for me, but good news I hope for you.' (Richard Higgins, Durham University Library)
'One of the best Tyneside writers around. check his work out. Keith produces great stuff on north east life, life in general etc, mainly via his poetry and has put huge efforts into regional historical initiatives.' (Brian Hall)
Retweeted Ben Dickenson (@benjitoon):
@JckCmmn @OldHeaton just finished @jinglinggeordie biography of Jack. Excellent. Now off to write a play based on it!
I am the current organiser of Poems, Prose and Pints in Harrogate, where I remember you giving us a great guest reading a couple of years ago.' (Tim Ellis)
'There once was a poet called Keith who flew by the skin of his teeth. His talent was vast. He spoke of the past. We could all from his books take a leaf.' (Michael Arnell)
'As a Geordie your poems sing to me.' (Stuart Morland)
'I really enjoyed reading your Edinburgh poems, all your work to me, is always full to the brim with enthusiasm about the particular subject and I always get swept along with that enthusiasm and really do enjoy reading the poems, you have a great love and excitement for your native Newcastle and this is always evident in your work and I did sense the same experience when reading the Edinburgh work, your love for the place is quite obvious. I found the poems a great pleasure to read and I will reread them at various times, you have to, in order to fully appreciate their content , I am a great fan of your work Keith and I think maybe you should include the Edinburgh poems in your set.' (Robert Lonsdale)
'Some great stuff here! I always love the headlong gay abandon and celebration of life in your poetry Keith.' (Harry Gallagher)
'I just wanted to say your poetry is absolutely beautiful, so poignant and evocative! The cast love it.' (Rachel Kirk)
CONTACT: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS, 93 WOODBURN SQUARE, WHITLEY
LODGE, WHITLEY BAY, TYNE & WEAR NE26 3JD, ENGLAND.
TELEPHONE: (0)191 2529531 for further information and
Posted by keith armstrong at 12:55 pm