TYNESIDE POETS!

TYNESIDE POETS!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE







I WILL SING OF MY OWN NEWCASTLE

sing of my home city
sing of a true geordie heart
sing of a river swell in me
sing of a sea of the canny
sing of the newcastle day

sing of a history of poetry
sing of the pudding chare rain
sing of the puddles and clarts
sing of the bodies of sailors
sing of the golden sea

sing of our childrens’ laughter
sing of the boats in our eyes
sing of the bridges in sunshine
sing of the fish in the tyne
sing of the lost yards and the pits

sing of the high level railway
sing of the love in my face
sing of the garths and the castle
sing of the screaming lasses
sing of the sad on the side

sing of the battles’ remains
sing of the walls round our dreams
sing of the scribblers and dribblers
sing of the scratchers of livings
sing of the quayside night
 
sing of the kicks and the kisses
sing of the strays and the chancers
sing of the swiggers of ale
sing of the hammer of memory
sing of the welders’ revenge

sing of a battered townscape
sing of a song underground
sing of a powerless wasteland
sing of a buried bard
sing of the bones of tom spence

sing of the cocky bastards
sing of a black and white tide
sing of the ferry boat leaving
sing of cathedral bells crying
sing of the tyneside skies

sing of my mother and father
sing of my sister’s kindness
sing of the hope in my stride
sing of a people’s passion
sing of the strength of the wind


KEITH ARMSTRONG


(as featured on BBC Radio 4) 

"I heard the broadcast. You should be congratulated on your contribution. It was certainly more enjoyable than a man describing the photographs he'd taken on the wireless." (Brian Bennison, North East Laboury History Society).

Sunday, 19 March 2017

MY FRIEND JACK COMMON (1903-1968)









































 








Ever since the sixth form,
when I found you, 
a kindred Novocastrian
in a library book,
I seem to have followed in your steps,
stumbled after you 
in rain soaked lanes,
knocked on doors
in search of your stories.
For over forty years,
I have tracked
the movement of your pen
in streets you walked
and on cross country trains
from your own Newcastle
to Warrington
Malvern,
Newport Pagnell,
Letchworth,
Yetminster,
Wallington 
and back again.
I have given talks about you,
supped in your pubs,
strode along your paragraphs 
and river paths
to try to find
that urge in you
to write 
out of your veins
what you thought of things,
what made you tick
and your loved ones 
laugh and cry.
I tried to reach you in a thesis,
to see you as a lad in Heaton,
but I could never catch your breath
because I didn’t get to meet you
face to face,
could only guess
that you were like me:
a kind of kindly 
socialist writer
in a world
too cruel for words.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

Peter Common Well said Keith!



Dear kindly socialist writer - this is great - thanks a lot for sending it

Love
Pat

Saturday, 11 March 2017

INNOCENT BLOOD: THE HEXHAM RIOT MARCH 9TH 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

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

Thursday, 2 March 2017

TYNESIDE POETS IN SWEDEN AND DENMARK



























In August 1975, Keith Armstrong, the late Gordon Phillips and the late Mike Wilkin were guests for 10 days at an international writers' conference held in the Grand Hotel, Molle, Sweden. As part of the programme, they performed their poetry in Elsinore, Denmark.


NUDE BATHER AT MOLLE, SWEDEN

You set the seal on these cliffs,
lying
with your dew-drenched body
burning away minutes in the sun.
Turning, the world turns with you.
Your blonde hair crackles with the light
and life
throbs inside you like a sea.
You are the rise,
the set
of a sun-fruit globe.
You are a bulb, naked,
a blister on the rock of caged ages,
pinned to the earth by your heaving breath and
the whole breath of the world.





KEITH ARMSTRONG



INDIGNITY

for Keith Armstrong and Mike Wilkin

Elsinore,
low-lying as a Claudius.
Around its porous castle walls
we stalk with Hamlet,
poisoned by the threat of closing time,
yet in the irony
of leaving things far too late
must satisfy
a last indignity.

Free to join us,
some Ophelia,
not fatherless,
or grief-stricken,
but, maybe, a little deranged,
(though still persuasive)
picks up my guitar to sing something cool:
How to undress a man
in the name of democracy.

She will not go quietly to that watery pool.


Elsinore, August 1975




G. F. Phillips





Tuesday, 28 February 2017

GORDON IN THE PICTURE BY DAVE ALTON




Those must be Irish rocks you were snapped on,
A wave cut platform for a poet, nothing
Between your backside and New York. Was that
The day you read the map, the day I drove?
“Straight ahead.” you said, without looking up,
Without seeing the Atlantic rollers
Rolling over shingle at the road’s end.
You are shot in near silhouette against
A brittle-blue sky, posed with your hands poised
Like a gunslinger, over his pistols,
With nowhere to run, so having to turn
And face, knowing that no matter how quick
You are you can’t outdraw your destiny.
Way out at sea restless energy roils,
Rising in waves and dashing to the shore,
Dashing on shore like Waterford crystal
Shattering. Then the turning, drawing back,
Losing identity in fathomless
Waters, to reform in a different tide:
After all, nothing’s absolutely lost.
Was it cold that afternoon when we stood
Two poets on that sea-scoured Irish stage,
Declaiming to the seagulls? I do not
Recall either of us that long gone day,
Before we went to the pub, shivering.



Dave Alton

Friday, 17 February 2017

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)

Friday, 10 February 2017

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, 28 January 2017

MAP OF THE WORLD




























 









We turned its global head as babies,

traced its edges onto paper,

scarcely scratched

the surface

of that old familiar spotted face

shaped up, boiling for a fight.



Hung on walls,

it looked so static

but in its latitudes and longitudes we knew

that people moved,

homes grew,

cities drowned

and cliffs broke.



Later, travelling,

we stepped out

across the sheet,

skipped the Channel,

entered 

new squares.

Then creeping back

at dusk,

we folded up this map,

packed away the ice

and sunny beach,

stuck it all in a small back pocket

and shrunk back

into our own world’s frontiers.

That tiny territory

of our scars.







KEITH ARMSTRONG

Monday, 16 January 2017

BURNS NIGHT CELEBRATION - ALL WELCOME!






FEATURING:

JAZZ POEMS:
Keith Armstrong and the Don Forbes Trio

FOLK MUSIC:
The Sawdust Jacks
Ann Sessoms (Pipes)

POETRY:
Dave Alton
Robert Lonsdale

Katrina Porteous
Trev Teasdel
Rob Walton
Dominic Windram



THE RED HOUSE, QUAYSIDE, NEWCASTLE WEDNESDAY 25TH JANUARY 2017 7.30PM 

ADMISSION FREE

FURTHER INFO: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL 0191 2529531


Saturday, 7 January 2017

MY FATHER WORKED ON SHIPS


 

































My father worked on ships.
They spelked his hands,
dusted his eyes, his face, his lungs.

Those eyes that watered by the Tyne
stared out to sea
to see the world
in a tear of water, at the drop
of an old cloth cap.

For thirty weary winters
he grafted
through the snow and the wild winds
of loose change.

He was proud of those ships he built,
he was proud of the men he built with,
his dreams sailed with them:
the hull was his skull,
the cargo his brains.

His hopes rose and sunk
in the shipwrecked streets
of Wallsend
and I look at him now
this father of mine who worked on ships
and I feel proud
of his skeletal frame, this coastline
that moulded me
and my own sweet dreams.

He sits in his retiring chair,
dozing into the night.
There are storms in his head
and I wish him more love yet.

Sail with me,
breathe in me,
breathe that rough sea air old man,
and cough it up.

Rage, rage
against the dying
of this broken-backed town,
the spirit
of its broken-backed
ships.


                               

Keith Armstrong
 


Allan Dennis Brockbank I always did like your poetry how you doing?

Mo Shevis Bought 'Imagined Corners' recently and was pleased to see this poem there, having read it previously online. When I read it last week at my poetry reading group it was very well received.! It is a powerful piece Keith. We are all of an age to remember the old industries,proud of our heritage and those who worked in them. Thankfully we have people like you to record such images and memories for posterity.


Derek Young What a poem. So evocative of those days. I worked at Parsons Marine Turbine Company as an apprentice marine engineer. My girl friend was a trainee tracer at Swan Hunters.

Michael McNally Hi Keith,Thank you for sending this wonderful piece of work in my direction.

JANIS BLOWER

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.