TYNESIDE POETS!

TYNESIDE POETS!

Friday, 11 October 2019

POEM FOR THE COMMUNITY







































POEM FOR THE COMMUNITY


The purpose of life
is living,
walking, running,
dreaming, loving.
No more than to create
with others.
No more than to live, drink, eat, share
with others.

Life is community.
Community is to link as lovers,
to give until your heart can give no more.

Caress that seagull’s wing,
lick the dew from the grass,
grow the most beautiful flower,
protect the ugliest weed,
hold the hand of a cripple,
wave to the sea and the sky.

Go on
making stories of a lifetime,
taking from the past the best love songs.
Don’t ask what life is -
it’s in you,
it’s the breath you breathe
into others.




Keith Armstrong


I love this poem, Keith! It means a lot to me. Thanks!
Yours, Henk

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Monday, 16 September 2019

Friday, 13 September 2019

MARTIN MY SON






































MARTIN MY SON


Martin, my son,
stop drinking.
Your wife is drifting away.
You frighten her.
She swims in tears in the kitchen,
hoovers the darkness.

When she left you for the first time,
you slashed your manly wrists,
trying to grab her back
from all those deserted streets.
Bandaged now, you’re on the pool table again,
gambling your love for another pint.

Martin, my son,
you’re a helpless fool;
a boy apeing a man,
a man apeing a boy.
You have your jobs to do,
she has hers.
And so the barriers grow between the sheets.

Martin, I pity you.
You were just brought up that way;
without much chance,
dreamless and without love.
You took your tattoos down the pit.
On your first day at work you were sick,
cried on your mother’s pinny,
soaking her with fear and affection.

Martin, my darling boy,
you grew from an angel into a brute.
Your eyes narrowed into hate
when you beat your first woman
and fell asleep on her.

Give it up, Martin,
show the world that you care.
You’re young enough yet.
Because you failed to kill yourself,
you’re lucky.
You’ve got a life to live.
Give that life ot her.

Martin, you’re supposed to be a man,
but you could still
be beautiful.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

Saturday, 7 September 2019

BYKER HILL














Poems by Keith Armstrong




FIRST PUBLISHED BY INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT CO. LTD.  (NEWCASTLE) ARTS CLUB 1972










 










byker


antique mart of memory’s remnants

glad bag of fading rags


bedraggled old flag


blowing in the wind over newcastle




   



we stand on street corners shivering in the winter

like birds sheltering from the wind


we do not rattle loose change in our pockets

only the nuts and bolts of poverty


we are splinters

ill-shaven

our clothes droop on us

using our bones for hangers


we avoid mirrors and images of ourselves in shields road doorways

we do not look through windows


we draw curtains of beer across our eyes

we sleep/place bets


every week on dole day hunger prods us awake


it is instinct


it is a fear of never waking







yesterday’s records in a raby street window

yesterday’s news

revolving today


pictures of byker trapped in a camera

yesterday’s photos

developed today


yesterday’s headlines

today’s wrapping paper


yesterday’s wars are bloodless today







snot drips nose

wailing ragman drags a foot

and sniffs



any old rags

any old rags



hair like straw

homespun

snot runs

licks cracked mouth



any old rags

any old rags


as raby street

                declines

          into

water



any old rags

any old rags






watson’s toffee factory

wrapped in mist

melts in the watering mouth of the dawn

another byker child is born


another byker son assumes

the dusty jacket of a byker man






and this is the truth

the wind-ripped reality between the grave and the womb

the aimlessness

the weary broken people

shuffling through the measured lines of architects’ reports


the cripples

the dying streets

behind the brash and snatching shops

the coughing strays


this is all the small print

the drifting words

beneath the glossy covers


and this is mother byker now


a wasteland of schools

                                     churches         public houses

a frail old woman

her mouth and eyes bricked over

tilting


on her last legs






change

creeps like a lizard over the face of byker

dragging behind it its retinue of planners

                                                    wreckers

                                                    builders and

                                                    visionaries


tomorrow

you will wake from your years of sleeping

and find what you knew to be yours being hauled away

over byker bridge on the backs of lorries

your yesterday

in clouds of dust






byker folk are living still

byker folk on byker hill

fading flowers on a window sill

byker folk

                 hang

                          on




 

*As an industrial librarian at I.R.D., from 1968-72,  
Keith was christened 'Arts & Darts', organising 
an events programme in the firm incuding poetry 
readings, theatrical productions, and art exhibitions by 
his fellow workers, as well as launching Ostrich poetry
magazine using the firm's copying facilities and
arranging darts matches between departments!
He also organised a Byker Festival in 1972 whilst 
working at I.R.D..

Monday, 26 August 2019

HEXHAM RIOT 1761







































In 1761 a new Militia Act came into force. Strangely it managed to arouse strong negative feelings in both ordinary working people and the ruling class: the former because a ballot system of recruitment - essentially conscription - was resented; the latter as training the masses to use weapons was felt to be dangerous for the future, priming them for revolution.
On March 9th 1761 a large crowd gathered in Hexham Market Place to protest about the ballot system, some putting the numbers as high as 5000, though a few hundred is more likely. For several hours the leaders of the protest talked with the magistrates, remonstrating about the imposition. Those magistrates feared violence, and brought in a force of the North Yorks Militia as protection against a mob attack. Their presence, however, probably further enflamed tempers.
Eventually the magistrates lost patience, and the Riot Act was read. As the crowd turned uglier, the soldiers fixed bayonets. The mob, by now its fierier members armed with tools and staves, charged. Two soldiers were killed with guns grabbed from them or their comrades, then a volley or far more probably a series of volleys was fired into the rioters. When the smoke cleared at least 50 were dead, including the two soldiers. Another 300 or more were injured, some of them dying later of their wounds. Among the dead were two pregnant women.
A hunt went on over the next few weeks for anyone known to have participated in the riot, taking in not just Hexham but the settlements around it, the list of casualties showing people from Corbridge, Slayley, Stamfordham and Ryall among many others had been involved. Unsurprisingly the North Yorks Militia earned the sobriquet The Hexham Butchers after the event.





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

Friday, 16 August 2019

Sunday, 11 August 2019

AFTER THE UK

















































AFTER THE UK




Shreds of the UK

flapping in the downturn,

decayed Britain

broken into smithereens.

No Kingdom now,

no United State.

We are

citizens

with no obligation

to genuflect

in front of an overstuffed Queen.



Get the UK out of your system,

no going back.

We take the power

to rule ourselves,

make community,

build our own spaces.

Break

the hegemony

of dead parties,

lifeless institutions,

let debate flower,

conflicting views rage.



We want to breathe

and strip away

executive power,

share

the beauty and culture

of these islands

around.

Make good things,

good love.

Empower ourselves

with an autonomous freedom

in a new England,

in a new Europe,

in a New World

of real ownership

and delicate emotion.









KEITH ARMSTRONG

Saturday, 3 August 2019

NEW POEM BY DAVE ALTON




Coifi’s Spear



Convinced by the Kentish mission, Coifi contrived

To hurl his spear hard into Woden’s wooden heart.

Idols don’t flinch, of course, even when they’ve deceived

Generations. God dies! Another takes the part.



Gagarin looked from the limits of his portholes

All around the world. No God troubled his inspection,

Only darkness punctuated by stars, like shimmering souls,

Lost as he was looking in the wrong direction.



In an absence of God it is necessary

Not to invent Him. When it comes to devotion

To creation’s supreme-being, Man’s more likely

To indulge a preference for self-promotion.



From spear onto rocket, how far has man advanced?

Yet reason doesn’t allow deity to be lanced.






Saturday, 20 July 2019

GRONINGEN: POEMS INSPIRED BY NEWCASTLE'S DUTCH TWIN CITY









































 






 








KEEP AN EYE ON THE MARTINI TOWER FOR ME

(GRONINGEN POEMS)

KEITH ARMSTRONG



DANGEROUS TO BE SOBER IN GRONINGEN


dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too many sissy boys
on the loose
city poets
sweeping the streets
for verse
girls sticking their fingers
in my irish coffee
blobs of cream
on their lips

dangerous
to be sober in hotel de doelen
too much history
in the bathrooms
nazi tanks
rolling over it
or worse
supporters of f.c. groningen
in my face
teeth rattling with chants
from young throats

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too many doors revolving
in my eyes
undergound activists
digging up euros
for liquorice suppers
rights campaigners
stinking of fish
yesterday’s papers
under their feet

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too much to lose
too many egos
in the wind
guitarists shouting off
their helpless lyrics
whores
in the red windows
showing me their wares
when i’m drunk

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too much sleet
up your nose
pancake ships
sinking at night
in a sea of black moths
short skirts
troubling my fantasies
bottles in my mouth
and thirsty heart

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too many clocks looking down
on my words
the infernal ticking
of lost days
down the drain
the rain slashing
the cobbles of time
outliving my skin
and drenched soul

dangerous
to be sober in groningen
too much warmth
in cafe marleen
the beckoning stools
of intoxicated moments
swirling by
the chatter of pigeons
gobbling up seconds
nibbling in my head
and my hungover poems

dangerous
to be sober in groningen

dangerous
to be sober in groningen




HUIS DE BEURS


Spinning and reeling,
days slipped by the window,
thudding clouds.
We rock in candlelight,
piano glows.
Sun’s sunk into the red carpet,
blood in the skin of the wine,
juicy dregs of another spilt day.
Old friends they have come
through this infernal revolving door
and gone on to evolve
long faces in the mist.
New vistas swing
through the old market
to make the lifelight
shine in our hearts.
Dragging on the stubs of years,
blowing out memory’s vague smoke.
Wet cobbles
glint with the dreams of fish,
flashing girls stream by
on darting bikes.
The crippled sunset
of war years,
the modern politics of fear.
Throw me another cigar
hand over your gear,
let us meet
in socialist song.
Your fleeting poetry
is a scarf tossed
round my neck.
My handsome northern mate,
I am going Dutch tonight.
That Mr Piano Man
flies across the bar
to catch an A Train again
for the fresh morning,
love’s daybreak.
My darling,
kiss my poet's lips,
let us greet the warm flesh
of Groningen
breathing.



GROTE MARKT, GRONINGEN


Grote Markt,
big as my heart,
your stones are wet
with all the kisses of my life.
Wide with welcome,
you open up the skies for me,
your face changes with the clouds.
Your winning charm
can sell me anything.
I embrace your openness,
your outstretched body
bears me fruit
and the raw fish
of morning,
sunshine memories
and the delicate touch
of the moon.
Dance with me,
there is light
in all your puddles
of yearning.
Smile,
all the blood
is washed
away.



GRONINGEN HORSES


Groningen horses
drag me here,
run wild in my brain,
leap in the imagery of the artist Werkman,
trot through my memories of wet streets,
jump over bars to greet me.
Their hooves clopping
through the shit of war,
they dart in the night along Guldenstraat,
wake in me dreams of the sleeping fields,
the swish of old tales
gone out of our minds.
Their withers are broad as Uncle Loeks’ back,
their haunches like a woman’s arse
I once knew.
What do they think of it all,
the fantasies in the Town Hall,
the pall of depression over Europe?
Stride on my sturdy Groningen beasts,
may your cannon bones,
your barrels,
your flanks,
roar with energy
zoom across this yawning,
dawning market square
and treat these sobbing days
as if they were not there.


VISMARKT
(for Rense Sinkgraven)

The Mayor is bothered
about the litter in my brain;
the dross of poems
spilled out onto bar floors
and the fishy streets of Groningen.
He prowls the gutters
of my verse,
seeking to tidy up
the rhymes
and times I slopped
erotic images
between the lines
of council meetings.
The detritus
from lost poetry readings
gathers up
in windy corners
on this market day,
curled up
into sodden memories,
dark with crumbling print.
This city’s flags
continue
to flap proud,
defiant
in the rampant northern breeze,
fingers of lost empires
forlornly
waving
at laughing girls
and daring boys
dashing headlong
over stinking bones.
You will not make me clean,
I am a dirty poet
whose head aches
with dark subversive thoughts.
I am not tidy,
my very speech
remains unruly
as a mad professor in the Huis de Beurs.
I will mess up your streets
with a dynamic anarchy
until a true democracy
makes a clean breast of things
and the road sweepers
and dreamers
of the Vismarkt
share a green and wondrous world.



KEEP AN EYE ON THE MARTINI TOWER FOR ME


Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me
while I struggle with my life.
I still miss the smell of fish
and the smoke of the Huis de Beurs.
I will be back, with another song,
for Mister Wilcox’s Liberation Tour.
I will be ready for that Pancake Ship
and the drunken stools of O’Ceallaigh’s.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me
while I work out which view to see.
I will be shouting in a twin town
and killing my time with romance.
I will be smashing through politicians
and drowning in red lights.
I will be rehearsing poems,
forgetting how real life hurts.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me,
I’m tearing up coasts to greet you.
You’ll see my ghost in Schipol,
with a pint of strong blood in a glass.
I’m on my way back to Groningen ,
with the smack of three kisses on me,
to shake the warm hand of a city poet,
to piss in the face of a heckler.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me,
I was happy in the Land of Cockaigne.
I could see clowns on a dismal day
and blondes in a sea of black.
I met a Grey Man with a girl of nineteen
and I asked him to show me the way.
I saw an old hand hack the guts from a beast
and sucked a cigar to be kind.

Keep an eye on the Martini Tower for me,
don’t let her fly away.
I need her to hold my life together,
I crave her to show me the way.
I want her to lean my fragile bones against,
I need history to guide my feet.
I have left a careworn scarf with you,
keep it warm for when I come back.



GRONINGEN GUITARS


Oh the groaning
of Groningen guitars,
the twang
of its gutters
and bars,
rolling of memory,
filling up dreams
of canals,
cracking with ice.
Gestapo days
and dead poets
swimming
in music;
the roaring days,
the roaring boys
and gorgeous girls
strummed away,
dancing
out of my eyes
into graveyards
of songs sung.
Spilt notes
and words
weeping for forgiveness
and joy.



CITY POET
(for ronald ohlsen & rense sinkgraven)

i am this blue barge
the pancake ship
the casino of flashing neon
i am the light in a fish’s eyes
the icy herring down the throat

I am the city poet

i am the unknown lanes we stalk along
a red shirt
the stripper of paint
i am death waiting at the railway station
a duvel in the old buffet

i am the city poet

i am a museum of children
an irish pub out of place
the ancient bard etching odes
i am the word stuck in your head
the drugs from last night

i am the city poet

i am the next call
the starlings wheeling in the dusk
the darkness she brought you
i am the sober priest in the drunk’s tower
the bus stop you kissed her at

i am the city poet

i am a walking cinema
the empty library
the last one for the road
i am the finger in her pants
a frightening glance of yourself

i am the city poet

i am this laughing church
this gas factory
the football game from hell
i am a cracking goal
the free man in a prison

i am the city poet

i am a scream in a dull meeting
the chairman of the bored
the councillor for happiness
i am a stinking canal
the giggle in her blouse

i am the city poet

i am a yellow train
a flash across the countryside
the bearer of state grants
i am a brilliant dustman
a spade amongst hearts

i am the city poet

i am a word swimmer
a shipbuilder who rhymes
the planner of good times
i am an evil messenger
the dart in his face

i am the city poet

i am these streets
a fag in the pewking gutter
the ministry of obscure diseases
i am your filthy town
the tears in your homesick eyes

i am the city poet



IN GRONINGEN MUSEUM
(in honour of John William Waterhouse, 1849-1917)

Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers.

Pictures of the weary traveller
sleeping on a train,
slipping slowly down,
sipping seeping rain.

Images of a little boy
learning how to speak,
lips leaking words,
lilting leaping streets.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly.

Eyes floating in the museum
glance from another day,
gorgeous girls on fire,
glaring golden rays.

Flames of a shattered light
bursting on the walls,
buds blazing with life,
blooming beauty curls.

In her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights.

Strands of a lover’s hair
playing in my face,
painful pangs of lust,
pulling parting lace.

Curves of a winter’s bones
thread through my breath,
tears trickling away,
teasing threadbare dress.

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.

Shards of sunlit ale
flickering in my throat,
feelings filtering in the air,
fear framing boats.

Canals of soaking memories
drowning in my eyes,
drifting darlings of the past,
draped delicate thighs.

A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high.

Tunes from the fields
call a city’s voices,
coursing chords of love,
crazy calming noise.

Choirs of Groningen fish
hollering in the dawn,
heavenly hearts of folk,
history’s hopes are torn.

They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.



FOR MARIEKE


I always thought
that, when you smiled,
Groningen seemed a prettier place
to me
and the Grote Markt,
beneath my unsteady feet,
hugged me
like my father did
in his strong and quiet way.
It is always good,
when I am travelling,
to know
that I have friends
in many strange and different cities
and keys to many doors.
For nothing is ever fixed
or permanent.
Smiles are only fleeting
but one like yours
shines bright
in the very beer of sunlight;
especially,
in the anxious heart
of this Newcastle poet.



THE PLOUGH/DE PLOEG
(for Haren 850)

We plough on,
bearing the years on our frail backs,
across wide fields,
wild with history.
We carry our paints
and canvases
over the grass,
in order to capture
a moment’s beauty.
We write it down,
we proud poets and local historians,
our vivid past makes our poems wiser.
There is an old bird
flying overhead,
above the windmill of dreams
its beak points towards the distant barn,
showing us where
the ancient wounds are.
We must suffer
over and over again,
850 times if necessary,
in order
to celebrate,
to be able
to dance
along this town’s
narrow streets,
teeming
with memories
of brutal wars,
deaths
and fresh births.
Show me some joyous flowers,
ring tunes on the bell,
and I will show you
the scars of battles.
But today
let us sing
in our old church,
play local hymns
on this fine organ.
With a death defying love
of our great heritage,
we will feed our little children,
all the joy
in our heartfelt Haren lives.


I AM THE UNSUNG SINGER (to Isaac Gosschalk)

'A conflict between God and the Devil is raging in the Museum, a conflict between life and death, between heaven and hell, a struggle in celestial realms.'
(L.P. Dovenbos)

I am the unsung singer
begging for the bones
of a tune
at the feet of the barrel organ
of E.F. van Polen.
Scouring the plains,
that stretch from Groningen to the Urals,
I am looking for a song
in this strange land.

Is it in the heart of gorgeous Annemarie de Groot?
Or in the pen of poet Jaap Pijper?
How many more times must I trail
my clapped-out fingers
over the luscious skin of a girl called Nynke
to feel the happiness I had as a child?

If I feed my voice with the guts of the sea in the Vismarkt,
if I scrape my fingernails along bleeding Folkingestraat,
I might find a lyric,
a drunk ballad,
a play of passion,
to set the Drama Department ablaze
with true music.

My God! Is there no end to it?
This lust to suck harmony from women's throats.
It takes me trudging down Sledemannerstraat,
it makes me grope doorways along Turfstraat to find her,
to squeeze the good fruit of her.

You may say that I'm a hopeless drunk,
swept along by the irate Groningen wind,
who throws death down his neck in O'Ceallaigh's,
who throws lighters at burnt out musicians;
who dances naked in a Casino of Torture,
who lies locked in the warm arms of a student,
with the curtains rattling
like snakes in the soaking night.

Well, I claim the right to destroy myself
before your Great Army of Culture gets me
and traps me in stone.
Look! It's a picture of me!
Snogging a pretty lesbian in the Concert Hall,
as the blazered ranks of your Male Voice Choir
mime another folk song.

'Panis Angelicus,
Oh bread of Angels,
prepared for men'.

I'm the Devil in the bowels of the Martinikerk,
I am sweet and I am dry.
I'm the kind of kind guy,
with a Metworst in my angry mouth,
who robs a beggar of his poetry in Tuinstraat,
who snatches the melody from street singer Jan Roos.

Come with me,
Kees Korenhof
and Herman Finkers,
down Nieuwstad in all the strangled darkness,
to grip that Frisian whore's suspenders,
lift guilders from the canal banks
and jenevers from the Sea.

City of Knowledge,
your hooded man
is always at my shoulder,
and your songbird's always
pecking at my heart.
Let the warm breath of your tired farmers
sigh in the breeze
and teach me
to sing an anthem again.



IN DICKENSIAN HAREN
(for Henk & the Dickens’ Library)


In Dickensian Haren
this curious day,
we are men with a careworn mission;
impersonators of ill fortune,
scraping our feet
through the back lanes of Groningen,
in search of the famous beard
and the dribble of trashed dreams.
We are reciting the great lines of Charles
on a stumbling Sunday
and we wonder why.
Why does the suffering go on?
The inequality of chance,
the dirty rhythm of brass
rattling in banks?
The Scrooge days
the days of mindless Self,
the selfish?

For Dickens is alive and vivid this minute,
Dickens is witness.

We slaver out our words,
whip out our tongues for the public
and wonder as we wander
through the pages of Nickleby and Hard Times
what men ever learn.

We go on to admire
the bound copies
in the sacred library,
toast a last one for Charleyboy
and his mighty quill,
knowing that we’ll end up tucked on shelves
but never great,
just dust in the swollen stacks
of Mister Dickens.

But treasure the sunlight on this day,
worship the brilliant beer in the glass,
each second he told us
is precious.

He is modern in his self.
He is a star.



BLUES FOR HENK

The day opens its doors to set a poem loose,
the sun beats hard on the skin of the sluice.
A passing bridge blinks to let a boat break through,
it’s time to leave English and sing something new.

From Lauwersee to Dollard
and from Drenthe to the Wad,
I follow a passing seagull’s cry
and teach my father’s voice to sigh:

Vivace la flambardo
Fugere le mansardo
Parforce la Camargo
a doso kwatrupardo

Monete penicardo
Pericula san pardo
Finate par retardo
Etcetera ce fardo (H.N.Werkman)*

Another night sleepless in Hotel Simplon,
the creaking bedhead and the simpletons.
Shot bolt awake by the drill of the dawn,
who cares what these unswept streets will spawn?

We’re walking the lanes that Hendrik Werkman dredged,
chipping the gems from the pavement’s edge.
Past a man fishing, heron stood by his side,
to the dark Huis de Beurs where all hope has died.

This Groningen wind belts poems in my face,
I’d trade in old guilders to buy out of this place;
my brain’s pickled with Duvals,
and there’s blood on the walls.

Oh to die in the trash of this town,
ode-money tumbling from pockets of time.
Think I’ll whistle a tune straight from home,
and slash the pale wrist of my very last poem.

Last night I put a piper to bed,
music dripped from his heart and his worn fingers bled.
And I couldn’t get that woman out of my dreams,
and I couldn’t hear my dreams for her screams.

So the day leaps to life and a hymn springs to mind,
I’m just a poor down-and-out hoarding words that I find.
Drunk conversations swim round in the bowl,
I’m drowning with language this lonely old soul:

Vivace la flambardo
Fugere le mansardo
Parforce le Camargo
a doso kwatrupardo

Monete penicardo
Pericula san pardo
Finate par retardo
Etcetera ce fardo*

* Improvised verse by poet and graphic artist Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945)
.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

ALAN C. BROWN - A TRIBUTE BY DAVE ALTON



































Photo by Tony Whittle







 
 
 
 
 
"They Shoot Horses Don't They ...?"



A sunny day in back in the 1970s and there's a parade through the streets of Newcastle. I don’t recall the reason for it, some mayoral celebration or significant civic anniversary perhaps, but it was quite extensive.

There were floats and fanciful costumes, crowds along the pavements and amidst the slow moving, slightly unruly jollity, on the flat-back of a lorry, the Tyneside Poets, declaiming their verses through a loud hailer.

Amongst the collective of young bards was the father figure, a poet in his fifties who was as enthusiastic as ever he’d been. Alan C. Brown read with customary enthusiasm his poem inspired by a popular film of the day, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They…”

Alan was the link between the upsurge of poetic interest in the 1950s and a group of poets determined to take poetry out from the hallowed halls of academe to wherever it might find a hearing, the more unlikely the venue the better.

The spirit of originality suffused Alan who cared little for conforming to conventional thinking. This showed through in his combining being a practicing Christian with a political sympathy for Russia.

As a poet he had an enduring interest in Russian poetry, with the possibility that poetry could become a popular art form. While others of his generation may have acquired greater public acknowledgement, none could match Alan’s enthusiasm and capacity for poetry.

Being one of those young bards on the lorry, I have vivid memories of my time with the Tyneside Poets and the central role Alan played in it. Even after that original group dispersed, Alan persisted and kept things going, organising subsequent groups that bore the name.

Initially, Keith Armstrong and I set up the Poetry Tyneside blog to put work drawn from Poetry North East, the Tyneside Poets’ magazine, on-line. Alan’s poetry was and is an important part of that heritage.

They may shoot horses, but old poets read on until they can read no more. Alan C. Brown may no longer read, but it is a testimony to him that he will continue to be read.



The Poet’s Tongue
(For Alan C. Brown)

The poet’s tongue is in repose,
His ear shrouded in silence,
But though the voice has passed away
Words remain of consequence.

Time is versed in its own passing:
Rigour of mortis requires
Syllables be chosen with care
Before their moment expires.

What remain stays with the reading,
Way beyond fad or fashion.
His spirit lives though the verses
Penned with the ink of passion.


Dave Alton




  p.s. from Steve Walker:


This is a tribute to Alan C Brown, who was a tremendous encouragement and influence upon me as a young poet on Tyneside and a passionate believer that poetry had a power to transform lives and worlds.

Friday, 24 May 2019

GORDON PHILLIPS - TYNESIDE POET (1949 - 2017): IN MEMORIAM


























































































Gordon Phillips – Tyneside Poet



I first met Gordon in the early 1970s, both of us “incumdons” to the North East, he from St. Albans while I’d arrived from Burnley. It was poetry that brought us together as active members of The Tyneside Poets.

We shared the ethos of taking poetry away from the self-regarding circles of academe and the cliques to encourage a wider participation. At the same time we developed and honed our own poetic voices.

Gordon’s verse always had a strong musical current pulsing through it and he went on to work with composers to produce work that was lyrical and had strong strains of North Eastern traditions and heritage running through it.

True to the belief in encouraging others we worked together on two anthologies of young people’s poetry under a small press imprint, Pivot Press. For the first one we had a goodly number of contributions and the detailed planning of the anthology was well underway. What we didn’t have was a title. Then Gordon received an envelope with a couple of good poems in it.

The accompanying letter also proved significant. The boy, early teens, was enthusiastic about the possibility of having a poem or two published. However, he was somewhat concerned about how he might be perceived by his peers. This led him to write that he’d be really pleased if we used one of his poems but, “…don’t tell my friends.” Both editions of “Don’t Tell My Friends” were very successful.

Before I left Tyneside in 2012 Gordon had been showing me a poetic project he was working on with St. Mary’s lighthouse in Whitley Bay as its focus. Recently, almost five years later he gave me a copy of the CD, “The Square and Compass”: the project was completed and set to music. A grand piece of work.

Unfortunately, the CD has been followed far too quickly with bad news. On Sunday, 5th February 2017, the illness Gordon had alerted me to finally claimed him. Perhaps it is always too soon, but this is truly so. On my last visit with him he told me of other projects he still had in mind and I had hoped he might at least be able to bring some of them to fruition. It is not to be.

However, as a poet his voice, Gordon’s words, will live on. It was poetry that brought us together, sustained our long friendship and will remain to speak to me.


Dave Alton




POEM FOR GORDON (1949-2017)


Across a Fenham avenue,
through the pools of stars in your eyes,
the seering light of your vision,
I saw your finely hewed words running towards me,
a crystal stream
tearing along these Newcastle lanes.
We tripped along together
in huddled poetry readings,
throbbing public houses
and ancient mansions,
searching for images
to make our days
brighter,
longing for a folk song
to drink with
in the approaching darkness.
Searching,
always searching,
for the right words
to sing to our loved ones,
we crossed the sea
to fulfil our dreams
from the flat land of East Anglia
into the arms of Scandinavia,
returning with that smile of yours
still intact,
beaming with the sun
breaking up the clouds
on any dogged northern day
in your adopted home,
lending a sparkle to Grainger Street,
a twinkle to our beer;
the joy of a lasting friend,
the spilt dreams
forever flowing with us.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG




THE TREATMENT BELL (GORDON'S FINAL POEM)

 

On the side wall, beside the reception

hangs the treatment bell,

pristine, silver,

its shine an encouraging glow.



Before it, hopeful patients sit.

The next ringer strikes a note for them all:

a customary three times

for an end of plan toll,

excitement measured in the hammering and applause.

 



Gordon Phillips, 18th December 2016


Note from Maureen Phillips:

The first time Gordon and I heard the three rings of the bell was on his first visit to the Department of Radiation Oncology for consultative purposes to evaluate and determine his most optional treatment.  

The inscription on the bell is:
Ring this bell
Three times well
It's toll to clearly say
My treatment's done
This course is run
And I am on my way

 



FOR THOMAS BEWICK

 

In your precious art you raised
delicate species fresh, alive
with every searching niche of blade,
on metalled tints of bone
in flesh, conceived.

Today, our clear eye can review
that aggregate of animals
and speading plants which grew;
now your thoughts to Cherryburn
are our adoption.

Through sludge of field flung back
from my drag of parting feet,
crossing rutted rural lands
you swept in light and shade,
a lock of trees
inside a border to engrave.


 

Gordon Phillips

(as read by Dave Alton at Gordon's funeral on Thursday 16th February 2017 at St Robert of Newminster Roman Catholic Church,  Newcastle upon Tyne)