Tuesday, 21 May 2019

ARMSTRONG IN THE NETHER REGIONS






























ARMSTRONG IN THE NETHER REGIONS

Cees Nooteboom, a leading Dutch literary light, wrote a novel translated as ‘In the Dutch Mountains’. I heard that some culture vulture sought a copy in a bookshop over here and was directed by the assistant to the TRAVEL SECTION!
I’ve travelled a lot all over The Netherlands, sometimes with the help of awards from Northern Arts/Arts Council and The British Council, and there have been times, trundling over the endlessly flat polder landscape, that I’ve been just gagging for a mountain or two.
Flat', you might say, but not uninteresting if you've got an eye for detail - and that applies to the cultural scene as well as the landscape.
From the hectically cosmopolitan and fast talking Amsterdam to the windswept northern city of Groningen to the carnival atmosphere of Den Bosch in the south, I’ve travelled with poetry in my pocket to give a series of readings and to network madly with mad Dutch poets.
I’ve crashed down in a squat in the former Dutch Foreign Office in The Hague and read there in the basement of the ex-Intelligence Ministry. I’ve performed at three in the morning in the Cuckoo Club in Groningen where, in a sparse yet merry audience, an old hippie glared at me from a murky corner with a hamster in a cage on his knee. I’ve read in a Circus tent in Rotterdam on a Sunday afternoon accompanied by my folk-roots mates ‘The Whisky Priests’, a doped rhino eyeing us suspiciously from its cage as we unloaded our gear.
And then there was the night in Den Helder in a pub so full of drunks that even my Northumbrian Piper was heckled. That same trip, I shared the balcony of a bar with a large stuffed swan, bellowing out my poetry to the punters down below like a demented seagull. Oh and then there was the Beer Museum in Breda, crammed to the rafters with wild and drunken Brabantians on a barmy Sunday afternoon. They roared during the set by ‘The Whisky Priests’ and they roared during my poetry too, so much so that I lost my voice and had to collect it from behind the bar later.
And then there was Utrecht where I had my jacket stolen in a cafe before the gig, passport, bank card, air ticket, glasses, and all. After a visit to the Police Station, it was down to the venue where, after borrowing some reading glasses from a member of the audience, I took the stage in fighting form. The show must go on!
In Newcastle’s twin city of Groningen, a place I’ve come to love after 20 visits or so, I performed at the Werkman College at a poetry breakfast, part of Dutch National Poetry Day, and I can recall, one wet and windy day, bumping into a pack of Frisian farmers drunk as rats. ‘And what do you do?’ bawled one in my left ear. ‘I’m a poet!’ ‘A poet!’, he mocked, ‘we milk cows!’, demonstrating, graphically, with his fingers the milking technique. Must get myself a real job I thought.
There’s a marked difference between north and south. There are carnivals down south in a warm and Catholic spirit. North seems bleaker, even gloomy, though Groningen keeps going all night, as I know to my cost. But try the Den Bosch Carnival in February, which I’ve only just returned from, and you’ll see how crazy The Netherlands can be. The symbol of Den Bosch, just over the border from Belgium, is, of course, the frog. So watch out for mobs of blokes in green tights belting out ‘When the Saints’ on their trombones. Not surprising, therefore, that it’s the home town of the legendary Hieronymus Bosch whose statue peers down on the leaping Carnival revellers, including myself.
And as for Amsterdam, well all of life is there, the nether regions bared for all to see. One Groningen city poet told me that ‘they should bomb Amsterdam!’ Now that’s real national rivalry for you! Yet to me it has a magic - just stay a few times on a Prinsensgracht canal boat or in a mice-ridden tiny-staircased flat or in the dowdy Hotel Utopia reeking of dope, as I have done, and you’ll know what I mean. Or take a jar or two at my Amsterdam local ‘The Karpershoek’, across the street from the throbbing Central Station, and you’ll mix with typical moustached Amsterdammers and Ajax fans, as well as New York cops on holiday rubbing truncheons with re-invading German tourists, guys from Bolton in search of cheap viagra, artists chewing the latest postmodernist cud, sweaty bricklayers, and sweaty social workers - well, and the odd crazy poet too.
So you can sense that my study of Dutch culture has been pretty thorough and, of course, ongoing, with plans for me to be back there for more readings. But it’s not one way traffic - poets and musicians from Groningen have performed in Newcastle and Groningen official city poets have visited here for readings and meetings with Newcastle’s Lord Mayor, as have teachers from the Dutch city's Werkman College. Well, it’s what twinning’s all about, isn’t it?!

Extracts from poems:

I was flown by a Dutchman through a Starry Sky
across the polluted Sea.
I  was twinning in a different land
with a song book in my hand.

The train tore across the frozen dykes
as the old town swarmed with bikes
and I thought of Vincent scraping spuds
and Rembrandt spitting blood.

This dark Carnival of frogs and trombones,
leaps from the graves of beggars and cripples;
this dualist fantasy,
this Oeteldonk nightmare,
where even the sewer rats dance
and the River Dieze drinks to high heaven.

I once saw a man who looked like you,
staring at me like a hag of a gargoyle
at the bar of the Bonte Palet.
He was a dribbling grotesque,
the kind you find among the monsters and workmen astride St. Jan’s.
A member, no doubt, of Our Lady’s Brotherhood,
he lived in a dream world,
a glutton for punishment,
ogling a lusty Brabant girl
with his popping, panting, eyes.
He was throwing genevers down his throbbing canal,
drinking at the confluence of Dommel and Aa;
he had brown paint on his hands so I knew it was you,
Master of Alla Prima.

You feed off tourists
on floodlit transparencies
broken by rippling houseboats.
You stay drifting in memories of the Indies;
a small piece of momentary beauty,
prettier than Amsterdam,
more shapely than Holland;
a true Swan
of the World.

In the Hotel Utopia,
we’re as happy as mortal sin.
You can hear an old man crying
through the City din.

There’s a tap that’s always dripping,
and walls that are paper-thin,
and, in this Hotel Utopia,
we’re really dreaming.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

BACK TO TUEBINGEN EARLY JULY!



statue of poet ludwig uhland - photo by peter dixon



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 to give readings and talks for a period of three weeks. Since then he has travelled to the city some 40 times and helped arrange for Durham and North East poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.

TO HELP CELEBRATE THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OFFICIAL TWINNING, KEITH WILL RETURN TO TUEBINGEN FROM JULY 3RD TO 7TH 2019 AT THE INVITATION OF THE CULTURAL OFFICE IN TUEBINGEN WHEN HE WILL APPEAR AT THIS YEAR’S BOOK FESTIVAL TO READ FROM HIS LATEST TUEBINGEN POETRY AND FROM THE  TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY ANTHOLOGY ‘WORD SHARING’ (WITH GERMAN TRANSLATIONS RENDERED BY CAROLYN MURPHEY MELCHERS).
HE WILL TRAVEL WITH NORTHUMBRIAN PIPER CHRIS ORMSTON AND WILL BE JOINED BY TUEBINGEN PERFORMERS AND FRIENDS FOR THE OCCASION.

-- Mi. 3.7.19: Cafe Piccolo / Affenfelsen: Auftaktveranstaltung zu "50 Jahre Partnerschaft Tübingen - Durham" mit ACOUSTIC STORM, Keith Armstrong und piper Chris Ormston (Durham) und Akkordeonspieler Peter Weiss (Tübingen), 19 Uhr

-- Fr. 5.7.19: Kulturhalle: Tübinger Bücherfest mit Keith Armstrong und piper Chris Ormston, 21 Uhr


From poet Tom Hubbard: Well done Keith! You've achieved a lot there and back at base. Keep me posted with your work and travels!
Aye
Tom.

 

KEITH ARMSTRONG  
HERMANN HESSE IN THE GUTTER
Tübingen Poems (1987 to date)

In this unique poetry selection, poet Keith Armstrong from the North East of England reflects on over thirty years of visiting Durham’s twin city of Tübingen in Baden-Würtemburg.
Armstrong worked for six years as a Community Arts Development Worker in East Durham and studied at the University of Durham for fifteen years, culminating with his doctoral award in 2007.
In his youth, he travelled to Paris to seek out the grave of poet Charles Baudelaire and he has been making cultural pilgrimages abroad ever since. He has toured to Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, Iceland (including readings during the Cod War), Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Cuba, Jamaica and Kenya.

His poetry has been translated into Dutch, German, Russian, Italian, Danish, Icelandic and Czech.

These poems reflect his love of Tübingen and the friends he has made there.

‘Now we are all able to read these poems. We are happy that Keith Armstrong has realised a long nourished idea with this unique publication. It shows the attraction and radiance which Tübingen has with a sensitive visitor from far away and it shows the liveliness of our connection with our English twin County Durham in the domains of words and music.’

(Margit Aldinger)


‘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.’

(Uwe Kolbe)

‘Different poets have different triggers to set off poetic imagination and a main one for him is finding himself in a city street and invoking great spirits who once lived, loved and drank there. This unique publication brings together poems written over twenty years in this 'special town'. I almost think he has earned consideration for a Keith-Armstrong-Strasse - and he is the ideal subject for a civic statue!’

(Michael Standen)


PRICE  £5 ISBN 1 871536 23 5

ORDERS (ADD £1.50 POSTAGE PER COPY) TO: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS, 35 HILLSDEN ROAD, WHITLEY BAY, TYNE & WEAR NE25 9XF, ENGLAND. TEL 0191 2529531.




INTRODUCTION TO KEITH'S BOOK:

 

People warn you against the profession of poet,
Also against playing the flute, the drums, the violin,
Because riffraff of this sort
So often tend toward drinking and frivolity.

(Hermann Hesse)



I first visited Durham’s twin city of Tübingen to give a series of poetry readings for three weeks in November 1987.

I proceeded to fall in love with the place.

Having now been there over thirty times and written all of these poems about it, I am still trying to work out just what it is, what peculiar magic, that draws me back.

Gunter Grass once said that ‘In Germany you’re always noticing how present the past is’ - and he, especially in the light of recent events, should know.

A lot of that past is ugly, we all know that. Just visit the memorial on Gartenstrasse to the burning down of the synagogue on Kristallnacht to remind yourself. And, of course, the Wall is down, its loss followed inevitably by all the grand schemes and tragedies that grow in its great shadow.

Yet, in Tübingen, I have always detected the lovely whiff of beauty.
I have found it all over town - in the glint of a girl’s hair, in the light on The Neckar, in the sweep of cobbled streets, in the trill of the blackbirds on Corrensstrasse, even in the candlelight of a favourite bar 'The Boulanger’.

Of course, it’s a university city, ‘a town on a campus’ some have said, and that gives it a somewhat ‘bookish’ air, which I have found inspiring - and not only because I have been a guest poet at its Bücherfest on a few occasions.
The ghost of Hegel stalks The Boulanger’ still, the young Hesse’s boots clatter up Lange Gasse at night, Hölderlin slips by in a ‘poetry boat’ - and, yes, Goethe continues to puke here!

I have ‘crashed’ all over Tübingen’ - under the old beams of Lange Gasse 18 (‘The Old Slaughterhouse’) with the church bells clanging in my brain; in a lonely basement on Gartenstrasse, in an idyllic hillside villa - and I always head back for more.

I have performed my poetry on a poetry stroll along the river and into town, as well as in the Castle, the University, the Public Library, in the Uhland and Kepler Gymnasiums, behind the Church, at an Erotic Cabaret, a Poetry Slam, in the Club Voltaire, in bars all over town, from a punt on the river, in the Hölderlin Tower, the Hesse-Haus, the D.A.I, the Jazz Kellar, at the nearby Theatre Lindenhof, on regional radio - still I can’t get enough!

I can remember bowling round the town with poet Julia Darling and finding a bag of coat hangers in a shop doorway, then walking into an art gallery through its open window and giving out the coat hangers in question to a bemused crowd at an exhibition opening before we left, minus coat hangers, through the window again. They all thought that this was ‘a happening’! I suppose it was, in a way.

I have joined in with the mania of the annual Stockerkahnrennen boat race in the heat of June, wandered through trees along the Platanenallee with a lovely lady, and slid drunk along Tuebingen gutters in white winters. I have seen this twinned place in all its moods and seasons, shared its glories with a bizarre selection of poets and musicians from Durham and North East England and, all the while, arranged literary exchanges, with a range of Tübingen poets and musicians visiting Durham, culminating in a unique joint anthology ‘Word Sharing’ published by the Kulturamt in 2007.

Many’s the time I’ve enjoyed lunch at the Wurstküche or Neckarmüller with Margit, Carolyn and Karin, shared a glass with the lyrical poet Uwe Kolbe in Weinhaus Beck and sat under the tree with the stalwart Otto Buchegger, sipped ale with rocking Jürgen and mates in the Cafe Piccolo, indulged in literary breakfasts with talented young poets, savoured fine wines and dinners with Carolyn, Christoph and Carmen at Corrensstrasse 45. The list, my friends, is endless.

I have measured out my life in Tübingen days and here are the poems to prove it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed living, breathing and singing them.

See you again soon - back in The Boulanger’! Have the drinks waiting for me!

Dr Keith Armstrong. 

Durham,
2019.



Like a sunflower my soul has opened wide,
Longing,
Outreaching
In love and hope. Oh spring,
What is your will, when shall
My thirst be satisfied?

I see the cloud drifting, the river flowing,
And deep into my veins I feel
The golden kisses of the sun are going;
My eyes, bound by a spell,
Are drunken and seem to slumber...
Oh, does my heart not know
What memories it weaves
Into the twilight of the gold-green leaves?
The nameless days of long ago!


(Ludwig Uhland)


For the record, here's a list of those who have made it happen so far:

Tuebingen visitors to Durham since 1987:

Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Karin Miedler, Gerhard Oberlin, Uwe Kolbe, Johannes Bauer, Eva Christina Zeller, Simone Mittmann, Florian Werner, Juergen Sturm, Mary Jane, Wolf Abromeit, Christopher Harvie, Eberhard Bort, Marcus Hammerschmitt, Henning Ziebritzki, Andy and Alessandra Fazion Marx, Otto Buchegger, Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek, Manuela Schmidt, Florian Neuner, Andrea Mittag, Matthias Kaiser.

Durham visitors to Tuebingen since 1987:

Keith Armstrong, the late Michael Standen (Colpitts Poetry), the late Julia Darling, Andy Jackson, Fiona MacPherson, Katrina Porteous, Marie Little, Ian Horn (Colpitts Poetry), the late Alan C. Brown, Linda France, Jackie Litherland (Colpitts Poetry), Cynthia Fuller, Margaret Wilkinson, Jez Lowe, the late Jack Routledge, Gary Miller, Matthew Burge, David Stead, Hugh Doyle, Peter Dixon, Paul Summers.




FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL. 0191 2529531.

Monday, 22 April 2019

THE SHADOWS









































THE SHADOWS
 

(for Michael Stephenson, in honour of his father Jim, 1945-2019)

 

We emerge from the shadows
from the womb of our home town
and end up back there
scarred
and weary of life itself
with a globe of the world
in our hardened hands.
Those things we leave behind us
are remnants of a little joy,
a painful love
scattered over the skin of our children,
petals of fuchsias washed away,
drifting
with the Wear
into the wild sea
rocking
with songs
of the lost
and the broken.
The loving themes of our youth though
carry on
in the sunshine
drenching the Stadium of Light
with hope
amongst so much clinging darkness.
Jim, I will look for your smile
in these shadows
and will never forget
your echoing laughter
and the scent of steam trains
that made me
what I am:
a grown up man with a guitar,
strumming in your image,
forever
in the heart
of this place called Sunderland.



 

KEITH ARMSTRONG

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

FIRE IN WHITLEY BAY






































Rooted,
in our own coldness,
we study
the burning,
from the other side
of pain.
We are in awe
of it,
the fire,
lashing its crazy head
against the sky;
a comforting kind
of fear
it is:
the warmth of flames,
of passions
that cannot burn us.
Here, across the road
from the sting of suffering,
we cling to the pavement
and look
into the deep horrors of a scream:
an insight
of the heart’s volcano,
viewed from the narrow edge of life
by our own 
melting
eyes.



Keith Armstrong

Saturday, 6 April 2019

TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING

 
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 and North East poets, musicians and artists and their counterparts in Tuebingen to visit their respective cultural twins.

TO HELP CELEBRATE THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OFFICIAL TWINNING, KEITH WILL RETURN TO TUEBINGEN FROM JULY 3RD TO 7TH 2019 AT THE INVITATION OF THE CULTURAL OFFICE IN TUEBINGEN WHEN HE WILL APPEAR AT THIS YEAR’S BOOK FESTIVAL TO READ FROM HIS LATEST TUEBINGEN POETRY AND FROM THE TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY ANTHOLOGY ‘WORD SHARING’ (WITH GERMAN TRANSLATIONS RENDERED BY CAROLYN MURPHEY MELCHERS).
HE WILL TRAVEL WITH NORTHUMBRIAN PIPER CHRIS ORMSTON AND WILL BE JOINED BY TUEBINGEN PERFORMERS AND FRIENDS FOR THE OCCASION.


From poet Tom Hubbard: Well done Keith! You've achieved a lot there and back at base. Keep me posted with your work and travels!
Aye

Tom.
 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

MARSDEN ROCK




Sensational Rock,
swimming in light.
Bird cries clinging to ancient ledges,
Kittiwakes smashing against time.
What tales you could tell.

Your face is so moody,
flickers with breezes,
crumbles in a hot afternoon.

Climbing your powdery steps,
we look down on the sea
thrashing at you.

We join a choir of birds at your peak,
cry out to the sky
in good spirits.

Nesting for the sake of it,
our lyrics are remnants on the shore.

We keep chipping away,
do we not?

We slip
through the pebbles,
splashing
with babies.

We leave our mark,
a grain
on the ancient landscape.

We go.

We dance like the sunlight
on your scarred body:

tripping,
falling,
singing

away.




KEITH ARMSTRONG

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

ELIZABETH, FOR YOU IN AMSTERDAM





 


























That spare room of yours,
telephone between us on the floor.
You, mock gun poised to frighten off
junkies who might steal
your bicycle.

World turning,
night falling
all around us.

Your long red hair,
wide free eyes
taking me in
and the cat you’d just taken in
purring
as the phone rang again to say
that ‘Yes, Sadat was dead.’

Semed that a moment of history
got trapped between us.

You, a journalist,
had to record it quickly.

Me,
I just flew back to England in the lightning
as someone else’s plane
crashed over Holland.

Forgive me breathing in your ear,
I just had to telephone to say
that some way I’d come back maybe

meet you for another drink
of Amsterdam
and Amsterdam rain.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

FOR MY MOTHER AND FATHER



























 




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3DffKLEGZA&t=39s

SING A SONG FOR HENSHAW

(FOR YOU MY MOTHER EVA)


Illuminate this slumbering old village for my mother, 
let her country fields glow with a fine light that’s warm.
This radiant song is for Henshaw
to be shared by the birds in the sun.

We scattered her ashes down a lane here,
we took her back home where her dreams could rest in the soil.
We returned her to her happy childhood
and the laughter where she was born.  

She gave all the love in her heart to me,
there was nothing she wouldn’t do for this boy.
She’s gone back to her roots by the river
to join up with my fine father again.

Let those ashes of bones float on this breeze
and glint in the open Northumbrian skies. 
She’s resting now in the joys of spring,
resting in my heart as well full of the breath from her soul.

I relish the days you gave me your all for mother,
I thank you for the darling touch of the dew.
Even in my darkest and scatterbrained times, 
I grew in the glow of your tunes.

I carry your picture all over this world,
show it to accountants in airports and singers in the rain.
I won’t allow myself to forget your lovely tenderness,
community lessons learned from you, your devoted and neighbourly ways.

Your bonny canny lad will be kind for you
and scatter the blue coloured petals of love.
Along every new street I visit,
I’ll always be dancing for you.

This son will revere your oath of caring,
your compassionate concern for the beggar next door.
I’ll go back along the walls you skipped over
to rejoice in your marvellous and wonderful smile.
 

So I have carved out this poem for you and your Henshaw,
it reflects the beautiful flowers in your eyes.
I am breathing a fresh lyric on a Tyneside day,
singing my deepest feelings for Eva and the delicate blossoms she grew. 




KEITH ARMSTRONG

 

Henshaw is a village on the South Tyne in Northumberland where Keith Armstrong's mother Eva spent her childhood. 


Rob Walton    Love this one, Keith. Great stuff.

Mo Shevis    What a beautiful tribute Keith. Lovely place too.

Toon van den Boogaard    Beautiful poem, Keith.
Must have been a remarkebly nice lady, to recieve these kind words of love and gratitude.

Nick Pemberton     Extra special one there :-) x

Catherine Graham    A beautiful tribute, a beautiful poem filled with love for your beloved Mother. x

Brian Ings    So much love, so much poetry, Keith. Thank you for sharing.






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

Thank you very  much for this poem. Ever since I have heard you reading it out at “Poems, Prose, Pints” it has been on my mind – it’s written in such a gentle and honest voice. The poem may be dedicated to your mum, but, as you said in the pub, it’s something you could say about all mums. I certainly feel reminded of my own mother, who died not so long ago, when I read the poem.
Love
Brigitte



Hi Keith

Thanks for this beautiful poem.

Tim G

Dear Keith ! Thank you very much. You read this poem when you were here in Groningen. It moves me each time I read or hear it. Nice talking to you on the phone yesterday. All the best, yours, Henk

Thanks Keith - you moved me.

All best
Chrissie

The Bird Woman of Whitley is a lovely poem, Keith.  Beautiful tribute.

Trish.

You amazing poet YOU
- thank you for that that poem - it deserves a very good moment, but I will translate it.
Uwe

Lovely poem!
Keep sending them!

Julie

Good poem, Keith
Cheers
SallyE

Thank you, Keith, thank you –
 For bringing a fulsome tear to my eye with the sad and beautifully-crafted The Bird Woman of Whitley. How amazingly coincidental and serendipitous that you should have numbered me amongst those privileged to receive it because, just this afternoon, I have put in the post to you my Christmas book (in Irish) An Nollaig sa Naigín (Christmas in the Noggin [my homeplace]), which has in it the story Céad Sneachta na Nollag (First Christmas Snow), which features my own mother feeding two birds, they being the Robin and the Wren!!!!
Bravo, my friend, and thank you for giving me the delight of reading so beautiful a poem.



Thats a nice poem Keith. Is that lady really your mum?


Mick

Thanks for sending me this beautiful poem. It really moved me. I have a special Mother too, she hasn't a selfish thought in her body.

Cheers
Catherine Graham

Hi Keith loved the poem

Mike


Thanks for your beautiful poem Keith. I must write something special to my mum.


Paul


Love the poem and it certainly struck a chord at 'On the Nail'.

Dominic


Thanks for that Keith. She sounds like a beautiful lady - feet on the ground, connected to the earth - heart in the right place. The kind of woman I would love to have known - they can teach us real values.

I wish I had your poetic eloquence. All I could manage when my mother passed away at a similar age to yours was the attached sketch of her life and the affection we had for her, which I read out at the requiem mass.We miss her greatly, but feel her presence all the time. I know she would have loved your mother - they would have got on well together.

Regards,

Gerry.

I want to add . I love this poem. Klaas Drenth, Groningen


What a wonderful poem! If one could write such a poem on mankind, we would be in paradise. Gerd Oberlin (Tuebingen)


Shivvy Coogan And you in turn share your beautiful dreams and poetry with all of us .......


Henk B. Muda One of my favourites !

Donal Thurlow First heard it when you read it in Limerick several years ago... loved it then and have read it many times since.... always brings me to memories of Mum.



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)
 



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
 

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

Thursday 26 June 2014

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.



Friday, 8 February 2019

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



Lovely poem & so evocative of an area which has changed much since you were a ‘reivers’ lad on your journey through the North Tyne Valley. (Geoff Holland)





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)