WITH JACK COMMON'S SON PETER IN NEWCASTLE

WITH JACK COMMON'S SON PETER IN NEWCASTLE

23.11.17

ARMSTRONG ON NORTHUMBERLAND




 





























SONG FOR NORTHUMBERLAND




Drifting in moonlight,

the dunes sing their songs.

Wings of old battles

fly all night long.

Cry of the seagulls,

curse of the ghosts;

aches of dead warriors

scar this old coast.



Hover the kestrel,

sing out the lark,

we will be free in our time.

This air is our breath,

this sea is our thirst

and our dreams are sailing home.



Wandering through castles,

their walls are our lungs.

Seaching for freedom

in country homes.

Forbears and old cares

blown in the wind;

pull of loved harbours

draws our boats in.



Surge of the salmon

and urge of the sea

leaps in our local blood.

Peel of the bluebells

and ring of bold tunes

reel in all those grey years.



Slopes of the Cheviots,

caress of the waves.

Shipwrecks and driftwood

float in our heads.

Pele stones and carved bones

hide in these hills,

roots of new stories

in ancient tales.



Dew on our lips

and beer on the breath,

drinking the countryside in.

Bread of the landscape

and wine of this earth,

flows on these river beds.



Drifting in moonlight,

the dunes sing their songs.

Wings of old battles

fly all night long.

Cry of the seagulls,

curse of the ghosts;

aches of dead warriors

scar this old coast.



Hover the kestrel,

sing out the lark,

we will be free in our time.

This air is our breath,

this sea is our thirst

and our dreams are sailing home.







KEITH ARMSTRONG








TWIN THE TWEED WITH THE VOLGA


Twin the Tweed with the Volga,
let salmon jump in Red Square.
Join in a Berwick Revolution,
let a glasnost breeze blow here.

There’s this comrade in Barrels Ale House,
looks like Nikita Khrushchev.
There’s a Moscow moon on top of his head,
his face is all ruddy and red.
Back in Russia,
there’s a border reiver,
a wild vodka look in his eye,
he’s riding a horse like a cossack
from Vladivostok to Tweedmouth and back.

Reach across water me darling,
it’s worth it.
Spread out your nets and your arms.
You might get a hot Russian lover
and Igor a sweet Berwickshire lass.

So twin the Tweed with the Volga,
let salmon jump in Red Square.
Join in a Berwick Revolution,
let a glasnost breeze blow here.

There’s this strapping lad in the Kremlin,
he’s from a Spittal back lane.
He’s wearing old Lenin’s disused fur hat,
there’s a Marxist tattoo on his chest.
Back in Berwick,
there’s a soviet cosmonaut,
with a fishing rod in his hand,
he’s trying for a catch in the gathering dusk
as the river slides from yellow to black. 

Share a strong jar with me sweetheart,
it’s warm now.
Hold the smile on your face.
You can sail light on the Baltic
and fly to the Urals with me.  

So twin the Tweed with the Volga,
let salmon jump in Red Square.
Join in a Berwick Revolution,
let a glasnost breeze blow here.



KEITH ARMSTRONG


(Commissioned by Berwick-upon-Tweed Council, 2006)

Because it changed hands between Scotland and England so many times, when the Crimean War was declared, Berwick received a separate namecheck, along with England, Scotland and Queen Victoria's overseas dominions. But, alas, it was left out of the Treaty of Paris which concluded the war. Thus Berwick remained at war with Russia until 1966, when a visiting diplomat signed an armistice with the town.
"At last," declared the Mayor, "the people of the Soviet Union can sleep safely in their beds."

 


OUR SPITTAL

Tammy Spence he had no sense,
he bought a fiddle for eighteen pence
and all the tunes that he could play
was ‘O’er the Hills and Far Away’.




From Cow Road to Hud’s Head,
Toppye Knowe Stone and Spittal Point,
we have dredged the coal
and snapped up fish
with ‘Lovely Polly’ and all.
We have ground the corn and bone,
found the iron and cured and smoked.
We have worshipped Bart and lifeboats
and prayed to Paul and John.
We have staggered on in rain and nonconformity.
We have lurched along old shores,
drowned the thirst of sailors
with the rattling old Town Bell and the tunes of jolly Jack,
whistled and fiddled away
in the bright Red Lion light.
Jesus Light of the World,
we are the history in the barrel,
in the soaring wind
and in the foaming waves:
it is our blood,
it is our bread,
it is our Spittal,
our mirrored past. 




KEITH ARMSTRONG







 

ALNWICKDOTE


These rough stones,
carried for miles to build
such a Castle,
mounted on fields
of bitter sweet slopes.

Stoned lions,
countrified gargoyles
hunch, unpouncing;
their stiff glares fixed
on us fee paying visitors,
taking a stroll through
the dusty chapters,
the library dungeons.

And I would suppose
this afternoon to be,
for us, some piece of history,
both strolling through
crisis after crisis,
hearts beating heart beats
and blood warm, flowing
through us as we walk between
such cold walls,
older than a Duke,
but never as wise as this love of mine
nor as fragile as
that historic moment inside the Castle
when once you smiled at me
so wonderfully.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

(published in From Both Sides of Hadrian’s Wall.
Contemporary poetry from south Scotland and north England)


 

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!


THE CUTHBERT POEMS BY KEITH ARMSTRONG


KEITH ARMSTRONG PERFORMED THE FOLLOWING POEMS IN THE CHURCHES OF BAMBURGH, BEADNELL, NORHAM AND TWEEDMOUTH IN NORTHUMBERLAND:

'I thought the Cuthbert poems were very powerful...Do go on writing and performing like that.' (John Mapplebeck, Bewick Films).


DON’T TRUST SAINTS

I wouldn’t trust Saints,
goody goody two shoe Christians,
they wouldn’t pull me out of the mire
with their do-gooding ways.
I do my praying in the trough,
sweaty trotters grubbing together,
not in anyone’s heaven
but rooting in the soil
for bread.
Don’t get me wrong,
I like a drop of wine
with me nosh,
and I can put the fear of God
in me neighbours
to keep them off me land;
shoot them stone-dead if I have to.
They can go to Hell
for all I care,
whole lot of them:
Poets and Peasants,
Pipers and Plovers.
I just get on with growing me crops,
no time for preaching Love and Hate.
This Northumbrian sun is all I know,
and the gannets swooping over me.
What I can’t touch or feel or smell or taste
is no good to me:
you can’t eat hymns
but I can catch rabbits.


THE BONES OF PROPHETS

The bones of Prophets
rot in this sacred land.
Cuthbert’s spirit soars with the gulls
over the ancient ground.
North Country hearts
beat with the songs and ballads
of missing centuries;
lyrics in the rough wind,
notes in the margins.
The Saints and the Scholars
scribble down the years -
but who can make sense of it all?
Bind up the volumes
of human endeavour
in this vast universe,
let the dust of our thoughts
feed the insects.
Northumberland is in truth
a bleak land
held together by dreams,
fantasies of us all being Saints:
an open slate,
still wet with the drizzle
of the scribe’s pen.



THIS BURNING BEAM

This burning beam
that did for Aidan,
Bamburgh’s finest
fallen King of Northumbria
in ashes.
Palaces of Pretence,
Gefrin on a summer’s afternoon,
basking by the Glen
where Paulinus
baptised us with pelting sleet,
and where the late Josephine Butler
spread her kind smile
for the welfare of wor women folk,
for the goodness of touch.

Oh Edwin oh Oswald,
oh Ida oh Hussa,
carry my head in your hands.
My mighty warriors of Christ,
is that you in the curlew’s cry?
Is that you in the breeze on my face?

Cuthbert’s a hermit crab,
a ‘Wonder-worker of England’,
and I am an empty shell of a man,
talking to birds
because they make more sense of my life.

Listen to me Bede, I’m the Universal Soldier,
I have rubbed ointment
on Cuthbert’s sore knee,
ridden with him across the sheep-snow hills,
and bathed his suppurating ulcer
in red wine.
Light a torch for me
for I am no Saint.
Yet I speak
the Gospel Truth:

Grant to me, Lord Christ, for this pilgrim journey through life,
Your ready hand to guide me, your light to go before me,
Your protection to guard me from evil,
Your peace to rest within me, your love to sustain me,
That through all the joys and sorrows that meet me
I may know the promise of your abiding strength,
Until I reach my final homecoming with you forever.

commissioned by berwick museum 2007




HEXHAM TANS


‘Hides lifted from a lime-pit were soaked for days, scraped and ‘bated’ in solutions of dog excrement and ground bark before hanging up to dry.’

You ancient company
of skinners and glovers,
you gossiping crafts.

You hatters and tanners,
leather-dressers and cutters,
we can hear you and sniff you in Hexham’s dank lanes.

You clockmakers and bookbinders,
pipemakers and joiners,
we touch your worksore hands.

You shoemakers and collarmakers,
weavers and saddlers,
we bear your burdens and your smiles.

You dressmakers,
ropeworkers,
cabinetmakers,
basketmakers.
Tinsmiths and
millwrights,
butchers and
engravers.

You 1000 sewing women in your homes,
you bakers and tapestry-makers,
you’ve led us here -

we worship you,
we drink your sweat.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

 

HEXHAM RACES POEMS INTRODUCTION


The following poems are by Tyneside writer Dr Keith Armstrong. They were first written in the year 2000 for his poetry residency at Hexham Racecourse and an exhibition of the poems with artwork by local artist Kathleen Sisterson was launched at an event at the Racecourse in September of that year, introduced by Hexham based sports writer Harry Pearson, with readings from Keith and folk music from Mike and Peter Tickell and Ray Sloan on Northumbrian Pipes.
Since 2000 Keith has been a regular visitor to Hexham Races and continues to find inspiration for his poetry in every visit.

Other commissioned work by Keith includes ‘Fire & Brimstone’ the story of Tynedale artist John Martin and ‘The Hexham Celebration’, both for the Hexham Abbey Festival.
He also has also compiled and edited a local history book ‘The Town of Old Hexham’ and organised a festival celebrating the life and work of Hexham born poet Wilfrid Gibson. 

 


LADY JOCKEY, HEXHAM RACES
(for Miss Lamb on Rubislaw)


I am a lady jockey;
dark stallions
course my veins,
and my heart
pounds
with a herd of wild hoofbeats,
blood pulsing
hot breath
of bold horses.

I jump the frantic fences
of my daydreams,
eyes lit
with a glow of life:
I toss and turn
and thrash
in the sunlight;
my mighty steed
romps
across the warm grass,
heat
startling
my taut body.

I am joyous
to be alive,
skylarks fill
my thirsting throat.
I will ride forever
breathing ecstatically;
an animal love
in my lungs;
and the smell
of a bold Northumberland
scenting
my bracing hair.





KEITH ARMSTRONG



BOOKIE’S SUIT
(forJack Randall)


In return
for your soiled cash,
he gives you scraps
of paper that fly
across these hard earned fields of Yarridge,
through history.




KEITH ARMSTRONG


 

BOOKMAKER BILLY DAY


His cap bobs
above the fray
of punters
who have not got a prayer.
They say that every day
is Billy’s Day
and every bet
more breath
in his kids’ bodies.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

 






JUMPING JAMIE!

The poems below were written by Keith Armstrong for a touring show ‘O’er the Hills’ by Northumberland Theatre Company in 1988, recounting the life of Northumbrian Piper, Jamie Allan (1734-1810), and based on an original idea by Armstrong.
The show featured Armstrong in performance with associate writer Graeme Rigby together with  musicians Kathryn Tickell, on Northumbrian Pipes, Rick Taylor, on trombone, Paul Flush on keyboards, Keith Morris on vocals and saxophone and Joan McKay on vocals, with original music by Taylor, Flush and Tickell.



JUMPING JAMIE!

A mischievous man you might say
but with beauty did he play,
with his wee fingers
tripping
over songs.

When he piped,
the rivers and girls came
running.
The world danced
when Jamie drooled
on his lance.
Yes, when Jamie smoked,
the salmon
leapt in his pipes.

A bit of a lad and bad
but oh what a way he had;
with the fish
and his hands leaping,
he set the salmon and some women
jumping:

Jumping Jamie!
Home your heart
in your hymns,
your wild Northumbrian hymns -

Jumping Jamie!
Home your heart.






JAMIE LIVES!

I see him.
Everytime I see
the Coquet,
I see him.
Everytime
I walk
the Cheviots,
I sense his voice.
I hear him
in the Curlew;
I hear Jamie
in the wind.
His tunes
haunt me still;
his wandering fingers
ripple through
the grass.
His tunes splash
across the river,

skim
in me.



IN THE YOUNG DAYS


In the young days,
I swam,
dipped in the River Coquet.
Along the banks I ran,
shouting for the sun.

In all wild flowers,
I’d lie,
picking out such scent,
jinking jaunty amongst sheep,
dancing for my keep.

Now by the Ganges I walk,
the evening streaming blood;
such wanders through a different land,
such songs of our dead brothers.

In the scale of things I am
but a small fish abroad;
all rivers flow together,
all wonders outlive man.

Jamie Allen I,
piper by the sea;
notes flow inside me,
streams flow by.
 



OUTCLASSED*

I never really knew my station,
my destination.
I was restless,
yearning.
Could never settle
for second best.
Yet I was
consistently
outclassed.
Ending my days
dingily alone,
stripped of illusions
and riddled
with humility.
My ego starved,
my regal palate fed
on bread
and Coquet water.


*performed by Mike Tickell on the Kathryn Tickell album ‘Common Ground’ (1988)

FOOTNOTE:
Jamie Allan, the most renowned inhabitant of the House of Correction, Elvet Bridge, was born of gypsy parentage near Rothbury in the 1730s and his accomplishment on the Northumbrian pipes earned him recognition from the Duchess of Northumberland.
He became resident at Alnwick but misbehaved and lost her favour. Subsequently he led a remarkable and irresponsible itinerant life throughout Europe, Asia and Africa but on his return was convicted in 1803 at Durham Assizes of horse stealing, and condemned to death. This sentence was later commuted to transportation but, probably due to his advanced age and poor health, this last journey was not enforced and he spent the remaining seven years of his life in the House of Correction. This is the building where Hollathan's is now housed.
He died in 1810 on the day before the Prince Regent granted him a free pardon. It is said that his ghost wanders the dank, dark cells and that the plaintive sound of his pipes can sometimes be heard.
No Wonder! What greater punishment to a wandering gypsy than this? Even his request to be buried in his native Rothbury went unheeded and he was interred in St. Nicholas' Churchyard, now part of Durham's busy Market Place. 




OLD STATIONS



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


(written for an exhibition at Bellingham Heritage Centre, June 2013)

 

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)

Bob Beagrie Lovely poem Keith


Dory Dickson Memories flooding back, very evocative poem.


Alan Clark Smashing poem Keith. I walked the route when we were teenagers, camping along the way. I got fascinated reading big orange LNER timetables when we were at school in 1965 and it was long gone. Here's a shot I took a few years back, just over the border from Kielder, between Deadwater and Saughtree...



I love that.  (Kathryn Tickell) 



HEXHAM RIOT 1761:


TUESDAY MARCH 10TH 1761


‘The Market Place was a tragic sight. Bodies of the dead and wounded lay scattered. The ground was stained with blood and the cries of the wounded were pitiful. The following day it rained, washing away the traces.’


Wash away the day,
wash the pain away,
sweep the remains of yesterday
into the racing river.
Beat the Dead March,
bang the old drum,
heal Hexham’s bust bones
and cry me a river,
cry the Water of Tyne.
Wash away the day
and wash this pain away.


 

A PITMAN DEAD


With blood gushing out of his boot tops,
a well-dressed man
leaves town
along Priestpopple.
Thirteen men lie inside the Abbey,
not owned.
Numbers are found dead upon the roads.
Big with child, Sarah Carter shot,
the musket ball found in the child’s belly.
Thrice into a man’s body
lying at James Charlton’s shop door
it’s said they ran theIr bayonets;
and a pitman dead,
a weaver:
all those broken days of history,
all the slain hours in our diaries.
Sound the Abbey’s bells!
Let them toll the severed minutes.
Let them celebrate
the end of torture.
Let them gush
with rejoicing
for more peaceful times.

 


THERE’S A RIOT


These streets,
in this Heart of All England,
are swept clean of blood.
But the stains still soak our books.
Death upon death,
we turn the pages;
in between the lines,
we read about the screams,
time’s bullets
tearing flesh away.
There is terror lurking in this Market Place,
just scrape away the skin
and, deep down,
there’s a Riot:
a commotion boiling
a terrible turbulence,
a throbbing pain.
It is a Riot of gore,
a torrential downpour
of weeping:
a seeping sore
that is Hexham’s History.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

(Poems featured in Hexham Local History Society Newsletter Autumn 2011) 




AT ANCHOR


Birds hurl themselves at the leaping Tyne;
I catch them through the evening window.
It is cold for the time.
My throat is stuffy with poems left unsaid.
Weary troubadour I am,
swimming with visions of ancient European tours.
Now I have landed, with my seagull wings, in Haydon Bridge
to honour a famous son.
I am lodged in the Anchor Hotel,
another lonely night of a whirlwind life:
lorries howl around me
and I can hear a village trembling
in the blinding dark.
Restlessly at anchor,
I cannot sleep for the ghost of John Martin
lighting up my room
with dynamic visions
and the thunderous clatter of his wild dreams.
Stuck in the rut of my own poetry,
I force myself to sleep,
bobbing by the river,
under the fantastic sky.
The community lights shine on my imagination,
and the screams of swifts
make a life worthwhile.




Keith Armstrong,
Haydon Bridge,
Northumberland.




John Martin (1789-1854). Historical Painter. Born Haydon Bridge, Northumberland 1789. Died Isle of Man 1854.

 


20.11.17

ELEPHANTS IN TUEBINGEN









































Such a postwar circus, 
swill of pigs and drawn out cold war,
the bleeding never stops.
Under the straw,
the claw of a miserable history
grabs down the years
at the young who are innocent
of all the butchery and whoredom.
Imperial Germany is a fagged out colonial office,
a sweating prison
of bashed up ideals,
a broken clock
covered in ticks and leeches.

The animals have escaped
and invade the Market Place.
Elephants sup at Neptune’s old fountain,
spurt out the foam of stagnant days, 
trunks curling to taste the Neckar water.

This Tuebingen is a surreal pantomime:
barmaids swing from ceilings,
policemen hang from their teeth.
Frau Binder throws them buns.

And our Max Planck is a dream inventor.
Some boffin of his crosses a peach with a tulip,
the genetics of a bayonet in a breast.
The menagerie moves on to the Castle,
a giraffe nibbles at a church.
The sun gnaws at the clouds.

Like a clown,
I leap to down beer.
And a hideously sweet lady cracks a whip
and flashes her milky thigh at me.
It is no good.
I cannot raise a glassy smile anymore.
This circus is a tragedy.
The animals are sad 
and rotten
with the stink of carnage,
seeping 
from your television screens.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

12.11.17

FOR MY MOTHER AND FATHER































THE BIRD WOMAN OF WHITLEY BAY

(FOR MY MOTHER)


She is out feeding the birds,
on the dot again,
in the drizzle of a seaside morning;
the seed
cast fom her hand
to the jerking beak of a cock pheasant.

She is alone
in a flock of dark starlings,
scattering crumbs to make them shriek.

She is a friend of spuggies,
gives blackbirds water.

Her eyes fly across the garden
to catch a quick robin,
to spot a wee wren,
to chase a bold magpie.

She is innocence,
she is a lovely old lady;
still giving,
still nursing.

She deserves heaven,
she deserves a beautiful nest
to dream out her last hours
in bird song;
in the rich colours of music,
in the red feathers of sunset,
she is my mother,
she is a rare bird
who fed me beautiful dreams.

Thank you for letting me climb
with the skylarks.

Thank you
for the strength of wings.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG
 


SPLINTERS

(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)
 

‘Beautifully visual Keith, nice to share your memories.’ x (Annie Sheridan)
 

‘Lovely poem, loving memories too.’ (Imelda Welsh)
 

‘So, so good, Keith - I'll share this, if you don't mind.’ (Kenny Jobson)
       

9.11.17

TUEBINGEN/DURHAM CELEBRATORY POETRY ANTHOLOGY



TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING

The partnership with County Durham and the City of Tuebingen in South Germany was established in 1969. 
Poet Doctor Keith Armstrong, who gained his doctorate at the University on Durham in 2007, following on from Bachelor's and Master's degrees there, first visited Tuebingen in November 1987, with the support of the County Council and the Kulturamt in Tuebingen, to give readings and talks for a period of a month. Since then he has travelled to the city over 30 times and helped arrange for Durham poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.
NOW A UNIQUE ANTHOLOGY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED TO CELEBRATE THIRTY YEARS OF THE LITERARY TWINNING. IT WILL BE LAUNCHED AT THE KULTURHALLE IN TUEBINGEN ON FRIDAY NOVEMBER 17TH AT 18.00. ALL ARE WELCOME TO JOIN THE CELEBRATION. THERE WILL BE A SIMILAR EVENT IN DURHAM AT A LATER DATE (TO BE ANNOUNCED).

PREFACE

People meet, get to know one another, exchange views – and each time something is left behind: a memory, a thought, a connection, an idea which can go on to have a significant impact even many years later.
Twinning, or city partnering, harnesses the very power of meetings to constantly open up new possibilities for citizens to break down barriers. This was why County Durham and the university town of Tübingen first became partner communities in 1969. Many individuals care for and promote this link, which brings together schools, experts, artists, musicians as well as politicians. This is what twinning relationships are all about; strong commitment on the part of people and associations who enjoy taking part in exchanges and which leave an unforgettable and long lasting effect on them and their communities.
One individual in particular stands out in this ongoing exchange between Durham and Tübingen; someone who has connected both places on a literary level for not just a few years, but more than three decades – author, poet and publicist, Dr Keith Armstrong. Thanks to his commitment over the past 30 years, more than 30 authors have found their way to their respective partner regions to seek inspiration for their work.
On the 30th anniversary of Keith Armstrong’s first visit to Tübingen in 1987, this publication seeks to serve as a testament to the strength of the partnership, as well as acknowledging those who have taken part in the project and as a chronicle of all their achievements. Twenty-two authors have contributed their texts, bringing together multiple generations and styles in this anthology which offers a vivid insight into the literary creativity of the twinned communities.


County Durham and Tübingen, Autumn 2017





TUEBINGEN WEBCAM


Look down from the Rathaus
and you will see me plodding
over cobbled tales.
I traipse though the clear night,
eyes stumbling across discarded dreams,
toes aching with raindrops.
My eyes sore with forgetting,
the old square undulates with the rhythm
of catcalls and pigeons
pecking at old folks' bones.
Ancient crows swoop
on market remnants,
the scent of forgotten summers
lingering in the winter’s gutters.
I bowl
down the hill
lurching with words
that spill with slush
and the glitter of ice under the moon.
We are but Swabia’s leaves,
blowing about in a hushed city
that baffles our loves,
scattered
on the flow of the Neckar’s infernal gurgle.
We are grinning away
in our urge
for survival,
in our endurance of boredom,
the hint of romance.
Scan my breath
for more joyful moments,
pan across the skyline
to pick up the Lufthansa throb
in the beautiful clouds.
I will sing again in Tuebingen.
I will kick out the glass on Melancholy Street.
I want to hear Uhland breathe in the daft breeze,
see Hoelderlin brood on a raft.
This world is crazy
and my mind
rejoices in it.





KEITH ARMSTRONG
http://www.northernvoicescommunityprojects.co.uk/Northern_Voices_Community_Projects/Tuebingen_-_Groningen_-_Twinning.html

FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL 0044 191 2529531 k.armstrong643@btinternet.com 

8.11.17

NOTES TOWARDS A POEM ON RUSSIA







photos: tony whittle


NOTES TOWARDS A POEM ON RUSSIA

1

Red star night.
A badge in the sky.
Banners at the cross roads.
Oh Mother Russia,
your past bleeding,
we are driving to the future
in a black limousine.

2

Rubbing hearts
in the lift
with travellers,
an atlas in microcosm,
all telling us,
by their accents,
the rooms
that they were born in.
In the Ukraine Hotel,
the bathrooms drip
with voices
and many tongues
sleep,
with the last words of the day
melting away on their lips.

3

Vodka is as warm
as a kiss.
It thrusts a burning finger
down your throat.
After a few,
we embrace.
Our arms surround
the World.
Warm Russian that he is,
Igor kisses me.
After fish and caviar,
the kiss
tastes good!
He signs away his writing:
To Keith,
who is both happy and sad.'

Another night
spurts into a dream.
In and out of trouble,
people will always
dance.

4

TO A FELLOW WRITER IN RUSTAVI

Last night we swopped our shirts.
They didn't fit our bodies too well
but they fitted our mood exactly.

5

WHITE NIGHTS

The huge spread of Leningrad.
Cold courtyard heart.
The winter is hard,
but the nights are turning,
from black to white,
to red and back again.

6

Circus,
and I'm dazzled;
not by the slender sway
of the supple trapezist
but by the spotlight
of a girl's blonde hair.
Shining from the audience,
she smiles
and all Russia smiles at me.
Such tricks in this moment.
I know I'll never see her again.

7

ZAGORSK

All the wailing
behind fine railings.
The seminary domes like suns
catch the sun
and priests, with long nights in their beards,
harmonize brilliantly.
Their voices,
polished gold,
sound out the walls
as a rocket
glints in the sky.

8

RUSTAVI STEELWORKS

It's hellish hot in here.
Beneath the Earth,
these are
men and women
sweating steel,
forging
futures for
their children.
Steel bars for prisons,
steel bars for playgrounds.
It's hellish hot in here.
Like a heart,
burning.

9

Three swaying silhouettes.
Three bureaucrats.
Along the street,
they joggle towards us.
In their cases,
they carry documents with drink
seeping between the lines.
And now they are laughing,
and now the words are laughing.
They are peace documents.
Messages.
Meant for bottles,
meant for oceans.






Keith Armstrong




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)




the jingling geordie

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