TYNESIDE POETS!

TYNESIDE POETS!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS



The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.


KEITH ARMSTRONG




Michael CallaghanAbsolutely brilliant Keith!

Conrad Atkinson: Another gem Keith Best Conrad 

Saturday, 3 November 2018

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)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

THE HIVE OF LIBERTY


The Hive of Liberty

(Tune: “Roddy McCorley”)



Both fruits and berries freely grow and rain falls from the sky,

We are allowed a share of both, but only if we buy,

There should be no proprietors who claim both stream and tree,

“It‘s just common sense!” declared Thomas Spence, from the Hive of Liberty.



Most people must labour to live, while the few take their ease,

Consuming most of the nectar produced by worker bees.

They claim to own the titles to whatever should be free,

“It’s just common sense!” declared Thomas Spence, from the Hive of Liberty.



Leaving his schoolroom by the Tyne, where coaly keel boats sailed,

He ventured down to Holborn town and was in Shrewsbury jailed,

For proclaiming the Rights of Man as how things ought to be;

“It’s just common sense!” declared Thomas Spence, from the Hive of Liberty.



Who gave the rivers to the rich? Who granted them the land?

And why should you have to pay for a patch on which to stand?

Do not defer to those who’d claim the wind, the sun and sea!

“It’s just common sense!” declared Thomas Spence, from the Hive of Liberty.



Two hundred years and more have passed from the day that he died,

There may be no Spensonia, but none can say he lied.

The rich wish to be richer still, the rest fear poverty.

“It’s just common sense!” declared Thomas Spence, from the Hive of Liberty.








Dave Alton

Saturday, 13 October 2018

NEWCASTLE: A POETIC STROLL




































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)







WILLIAM BLAKE IN THE BRIDGE HOTEL


A few pints of Deuchars and my spirit is soaring.

The child dances out of me,

goes running down to the Tyne,

while the little man in me wrestles with a lass

and William Blake beams all his innocence in my glass.

And the old experience sweats from a castle’s bricks

as another local prophet takes a jump off the bridge.



It’s the spirit of Pat Foley and the ancient brigade

on the loose down the Quayside stairs

in a futile search,

just a step in the past,

for one last revolutionary song.



All the jars we have supped

in the hope of a change;

all the flirting and courting and chancing downstream;

all the words in the air and the luck pissed away.

It seems we oldies are running back

screaming to the Bewick days,

when a man could down a politicised quip

and craft a civilised chat

before he fed the birds

in the Churchyard.



The cultural ships are fair steaming in

but it’s all stripped of meaning -

the Councillors wade

in the shallow end.



O Blake! buy me a pint in the Bridge again,

let it shiver with sunlight

through all the stained windows,

make my wit sparkle

and my knees buckle.



Set me free of this stifling age

when the bland are back in charge.

Let us grow our golden hair wild once more

and roar like Tygers

down Dog Leap Stairs.






KEITH ARMSTRONG





GRAINGER MARKET

 

(1)

A city
within a city

light cage

bazaar and blind
these swollen alleys


flow with a teeming life’s blood

Geordie  !

Swim for your life  !




(2)

this is life
the gloss and the flesh
weigh-house of passion and flame

you can get lost in this market’s amazement
but you can never lose yourself

sometimes
a sleep-walk in these grazing crowds
can feel like a stroll through your brain





 

MAUD WATSON, FLORIST





bred in a market arch

a struggle

in a city’s armpit



that flower

in your time-rough hand’s

a beautiful girl in a slum alley



all that kindness in your face



and you’re right



the time are not what they were

this England’s not what it was



flowers shrink in the crumbling vase

dusk creeps in on a cart



and Maud the sun is choking



Maud this island’s sinking



and all that sleeping sea is



the silent majority



waving









Keith Armstrong




GREY’S MONUMENT

 

Grey –
this man and his brain’s conception,
clasped in stone.
Disdainful figure
raised
on a firm dry finger;
proud-stiff
above a time-bent avenue of dwindling lights.

The Earl’s pale forehead is cool and cloudy;
unblinking,
he views us all (as we view him)
in the same old, cold, way –
through the wrong end of a battered telescope,
through the dusty lens of history.

Strip away the tinsel
and this city’s heart is stone.



Keith Armstrong





BLACK GATE


Black Gate,
an oxter of history,
reaches for me
with a stubby finger,
invites me into Old Newcastle,
its vital cast
of craggy characters,
Garth urchins,
dancing blades
and reeling lasses.
Black Gate,
I can read
the lines
on your brow,
the very grit
on your timelined walls,
the furrowed path
down the Geordie lane
where Alexander Stephenson stoops
to let me in
and the merchant Patrick Black
still trades in memories.
Once
there was a tavern
inside you,
that’s why
the bricks cackle
and the windows creak
with the crack of old ale
and the redundant patter
of publican John Pickell.
Black Gate,
you could say
my childhood is in your stones,
my mother and father figures,
my river
of drifting years,
waiting to greet me.
Hoist up your drawbridge,
in the startling chill
of a Tyne dawn,
this boy is with you
and with himself
in this home city
of old bones,
new blood
and dripping dreams.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

*The Black Gate is named after the seventeenth century merchant Patrick Black.





CASTLE KEEP


Keep,
this history by the river.
Keep,
the stairway to the past.
Keep,
the memories singing folk songs.
Keep,
the cobbles wet with blood.
Keep,
those ballads down the centuries.
Keep,
the ancient voices in your head.
Keep,
these stones alive with music.
Keep,
the wind howling in the brick.
Keep
the days that speed our lives.
Keep,
the rails to guide you there.
Keep,
the people that you meet.
Keep,
the children's faces dancing.
Keep,
the devil in your fleeting eyes.
Keep,
the bridges multiplying.
Keep,
the moon upon the Tyne.
Keep,
the flag of lovers flying.
Keep,
your feet still
Geordie hinny.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG

THE SUN ON DANBY GARDENS


The sun on Danby Gardens
smells of roast beef,
tastes of my youth.
The flying cinders of a steam train
spark in my dreams.
Across the old field,
a miner breaks his back
and lovers roll in the ditches,
off beaten tracks.
Off Bigges Main,
my grandad taps his stick,
reaches for the braille of long-dead strikes.
The nights
fair draw in
and I recall Joyce Esthella Antoinette Giles
and her legs that reached for miles,
tripping over the stiles
in red high heels.
It was her and blonde Annie Walker
who took me in the stacks
and taught me how to read
the signs
that led inside their thighs.
Those Ravenswood girls
would dance into your life
and dance though all the snow drops
of those freezing winters,
in the playground of young scars.
And I remember freckled Pete
who taught me Jazz,
who pointed me to Charlie Parker
and the edgy bitterness of Brown Ale.
Mrs Todd next door
was forever sweeping
leaves along the garden path
her fallen husband loved to tread.
Such days:
the smoke of A4 Pacifics in the aftermath of war,
the trail of local history on the birthmarked street.
And I have loved you all my life
and will no doubt die in Danby Gardens
where all my poems were born,
just after midnight.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG



NEWCASTLE IS PICARDY
































 





Grainger Street hums
and bakes
in the peeling sunshine;
this walled, world weary city
adopts a certain Latin glow:
car drivers swear more brilliantly,
girls giggle louder
and trap my eyes
in the flash
of their hair.
The world is simply
passing us by.
And who cares,
in this haze
of a burning Empire?
So long as
the sunbeams 
swim
in our beer
and the roses
are blooming
in Picardy.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

‘WIBSON’ - HEXHAM’S ‘PEOPLE’S POET’: Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962)























































‘WIBSON’

HEXHAM’S ‘PEOPLE’S POET’: Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962)

‘Heather land and bent-land,
Black land and white,
God bring me to Northumberland,
The land of my delight.

Land of singing waters,
And winds from off the sea,
God bring me to Northumberland,
The land where I would be.

Heather land and bent-land,
And valleys rich with corn,
God bring me to Northumberland,
The land where I was born.’


2018 marks the 140th anniversary of the birth in Hexham of Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, author of poems like ‘Flannan Isle’, ‘The Ice Cart’, and ‘The Drover’s Road’. Born in Battle Hill House on October 2nd 1878, his mother was Elizabeth Judith Frances Gibson (née Walton) and his father, John Pattison Gibson, was a pharmacist with his own small business. Wilfrid was the youngest of seven children in a somewhat unhappy home. As he grew up, he helped out in the family shop, and assisted with his father’s photographic and antiquarian interests.
He was educated at private schools, all of which went bankrupt, and brought up under the wing of an elder sister, Elizabeth, who had published poetry and who took responsibility for much of his education.
Wilfrid penned his first poem aged 10 about a school bully. At 13, he started to have his work published in the local newspapers. In February 1901 one of his poems was inscribed on the fountain in Hexham Market Place.
His father, an expert on the Franco-Prussian War, added to the boy's education by taking him abroad several times to visit battlefields and historical sites so that Gibson saw Ypres and Gallipoli before the war.
A chance meeting in 1898 between Wilfrid, his elder sister and Sydney Cockerell, a friend of many literary figures, gave Wilfid introductions to W.B. Yeats, Laurence Binyon and others during occasional visits to London.
In 1902, his mother died, and he dedicated his book of poems, 'Urlyn the Harper' to her.
Not much is known about his early years except for a gift for language and a real desire to be a poet. An early poem of his appeared in ‘The Spectator’ in 1897 and his first book of poetry was published at the age of 24 under the title of‘The Golden Helm’.
This was followed, in 1907, by 'On the Threshold' and ‘Stonefields’ which depicted the strength and atmosphere of Northumberland and the Borders, and then ‘Daily Bread’, issued in 1910, which went into a third printing partly because of its down to earth style proving that there was a market for poems on everyday life which people could relate to. The subject matter of the urban poor caught the eye of a northern reviwwer who christened him the 'People's Poet'.
Gibson confessed that he had a 'horror of ultra-poetic words', believing that it was 'the poet's business to make poetry out of the life of his day'. He had once eaten 'confectionary', he felt, but was now a 'bread and cheese' poet.
He was also a bit of a playwright whose verse dialogues were frequently performed. His play ‘Womankind’ was staged in Birmingham and Glasgow, as well as at the Chicago Little Theatre.
He was not without his critics, like the poet Edward Thomas who said in 1906 that ‘Wilfrid Wilson Gibson had long ago swamped his small delightful gift by his abundance. He is essentially a minor poet in the bad sense, for he is continually treating subjects poetically, writing about things instead of creating them'. Of Gibson’s later verse narratives, Thomas was equally scathing: ‘Gibson has merely been embellishing what would have been more effective as pieces of rough prose. The verse has added nothing except unreality, not even brevity.’

Gibson first left the relative middle class security of his home in Hexham at the age of 34, living briefly in Glasgow where he reviewed books for the ‘Glasgow Herald’. He experienced life in the slums and visted mines and factories and was troubled by what he witnessed there.
He finally left his native Northumberland and moved to London in the summer of 1912 to work as an assistant editor for ’Rhythm’, a poetry magazine edited by John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield. His small wage was paid anonymously by arts patron Eddie Marsh and Marsh introduced him to poet Rupert Brooke on September 17,1912. Just three days later Gibson, at Brooke's invitation, attended the first meeting to discuss the publication of ’Georgian Poetry’. In November 1912 he moved into a little room over Harold Monro's Poetry Bookshop, two months before its official opening. It was there that he met his wife, Geraldine Townshend, who worked as Monro’s secretary. In December 1913 Gibson was married in Dublin. He moved to Dymock in Gloucestershire in 1914 to join a group of poets and his new bride went with him.
The Gibsons spent their honeymoon at 'The Gallows', while fellow poet Lascelles Abercrombie was away, and soon afterwards they moved to a thatched cottage called ‘The Old Nailshop’, two miles west of Abercrombie's cottage, on the road from Dymock to Ledbury.
‘The Old Nail-Shop', published in ’New Numbers 4’, is one of several poems referring to the cottage and shows Gibson's feel for history and a genuine concern for the poor. However, the most significant poem about the cottage is 'The Golden Room'. It gives a strong sense of the atmosphere inside the house on a night when five of the six Dymock Poets (not John Drinkwater) met up. It was dedicated to his wife.
The evening the poets met was probably June 24, 1914 and the poem expresses Gibson’s anguished feelings about how war had destroyed so much.
Dymock's famous daffodils are featured strongly in another Gibson’s poem ‘Daffodils’ and in 'To John Drinkwater'. As with 'The Golden Room', war is blamed for bringing an end to their peaceful sense of community.
One of the Dymock Poets, the American Robert Frost, said of Gibson that ‘he is much talked of in America at the present time. He’s just one of the plain folks with none of the marks of the literary poseur about him'. The poet Rupert Brooke affectionately nicknamed him ‘Wibson’. Two volumes of Gibson's poems - ’Daily Bread’ (1910) and ’Fires’ (1912) - impressed Frost by showing that there was a market for poems about ordinary people and everydaylife.
After Frost had an awkward encounter with a gamekeeper in the woods behind Abercrombie's house, Frost wrote to a friend that he now had a better claim than Gibson 'to the title of the People's Poet'. D.H. Lawrence wrote to Eddie Marsh in November 1913 that 'I think Gibson is one of the clearest and most lovable personalities I know'.

By the start of the first world war, Gibson was seen as one of the most talented younger poets and more famous even than his friend and fellow poet Rupert Brooke. Gibson’s poems ‘Breakfast’, and ‘The Messages’ first published in October 1914, were among 32 poems about the war in his 1915 book ’Battle’.
He often criticised his own work as shown in a letter to Frost about ’Battle’: 'I had to publish it as I felt I must make my little protest, however feeble and ineffectual - so don't be too hard on me.'
News of the outbreak of war came to him 'like a thunderclap'. Yet he still believed that it was important to continue with poetry, to 'keep the flag flying in this triumph of barbarism' as he said, adding: 'I cannot think of war in terms of armies of contending nations: it it is to me a business of innumerable personal tragedies.'

During the winter of 1915-16 he was in ill health and down in spirits. He was greatly moved by the war deaths that year of his friends Rupert Brooke and Denis Browne and in November he attempted to volunteer for the army but was turned down three times because of poor health and bad eyesight. This allowed him in late 1916 and early 1917 to embark upon a successful two month reading tour of America.
However, he was finally accepted in October 1917, for duties in England only, and joined the army in January 1918 to work as a packer and loader and medical clerk in the Army Service Corps in south London. Later he was transferred to a clerkship in Sydenham and worked in the Medical Card Registry. He served until February 1919 and was glad to leave after a dispiriting experience when he discovered how 'hideously squalid' army life was which rendered him exhausted, with minor ailments and finding writing difficult.  

Rupert Brooke had left a share in the income from copyright of his poems to Gibson which helped to ease the financially difficult post-war years. During the 1920s and after, Gibson continued to write, supplementing the family income with book reviewing and broadcasting.

The Gibsons had three children: Audrey, born in 1916; Michael, born in 1918, and Jocelyn, born in 1920. They also cared for their grandson, Roland, after Audrey was killed in an accident in 1939.

In 1920 the family moved to Saundersfoot in Wales, with subsequent moves to Letchworth in Hertfordshire, followed by London, Berkshire, and the Isle of Wight. After Geraldine died in 1950, Wilfrid  moved with Roland to live with his son and daughter-in-law in Surrey.
Gibson averaged almost a book a year for all his adult life until 1950. He continued with lecture and reading tours around Britain but his work declined in popularity.
In his old age he becae something of a recluse and destroyed all of his papers.  'I am one of those unlucky writers whose books have predeceased him.... ‘I have no faith that posterity… will be likely to resuscitate them,’ he wrote to Robert Frost in 1939.

He was included in Edward Marsh's 'Georgian Poetry', had his poem 'Breakfast' in W.B.Yeats's 'The Oxford Book of Modern Verse' and featured six times in Philip Larkin's 'Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Verse' and was an influence on the young Auden.

As Gibson said himself: ‘We shall always have poets while we have lovers.’
In war and in peace, he tried to celebrate the lives of ordinary people and what he called ‘the heartbreak in the heart of things’.
‘Wibson’ continued to publish a selection of poems every two years or so until 1950, despite money problems and the aches and pains of rheumatism and fibrositis. However, his work declined greatly in popularity.
He died at Virginia Water in Surrey in a nursing home on May 26th 1962, aged 83. He had written to Robert Frost in 1939 that ‘I am one of those unlucky writers whose books have predeceased him.’


KEITH ARMSTRONG

(as published in Hexham Historian, August 2018)



O YOU WHO DRINK MY COOLING WATERS CLEAR
FORGET NOT THE FAR HILLS FROM WHENCE THEY FLOW
WHERE OVER FELL AND MOORLAND YEAR BY YEAR
SPRING SUMMER AUTUMN WINTER COME AND GO
WITH SHOWERING SUN AND RAIN AND STORM AND SNOW
WHERE OVER THE GREEN BENTS FOREVER BLOW
THE FOUR FREE WINDS OF HEAVEN; WHERE TIME FALLS

IN SOLITARY PLACES CALM AND SLOW.
WHERE PIPES THE CURLEW AND THE PLOVER CALLS,
BENEATH THE OPEN SKY MY WATERS SPRING
BENEATH THE CLEAR SKY WELLING FAIR AND SWEET,
A DRAUGHT OF COOLNESS FOR YOUR THIRST TO BRING,
A SOUND OF COOLNESS IN THE BUSY STREET.

WILFRED WILSON GIBSON                    HEXHAM FEB -1901



Inscription on north side of Memorial Fountain in Hexham Market Place
N.B. ‘Wilfrid’ misspelt on Memorial!


THE GOLDEN ROOM


‘Was it for nothing that the little room,
All golden in the lamplight, thrilled with golden
Laughter from hearts of friends that summer night?’ (Wilfrid Gibson)

I’m as happy as a daffodil
this day;
sunshine flows around me
over fences,
leaping
with the joy of my poetry.

I am Lord Pretty Field,
a tipsy aristocrat of verse,
become full of myself
and country booze
in the Beauchamp Arms.

Under branches frothy with blossom,
I carry a torch from Northumberland
for Wilfrid Gibson
and his old mates;
for Geraldine
I bear
my Cheviot heart
in Gloucester ciderlight.

We can only catch
a petal from the slaughter,
a bloom
to ease the melancholy
of a Dymock dusk;
hear laughter
over the gloomy murmurs
of distant wars.

A swirling rook cries out
across St Mary’s spire
in dialect
as I climb
back to my White House room
to dream of an England gone,
and a flash of whisky
with Abercrombie.

For Wilfrid you are still
‘a singing star’,
drenched in balladry;
and this I know:
I will keep your little songs alive
in this Golden Room in my heart
and, in my Hexham’s market place,
rant for you
and cover
all our love
with streaming daffodils.


KEITH ARMSTRONG
(written after a visit to Dymock in 2003 as a guest of the Dymock Poets).



BOOKS REFERRED TO:

Keith Armstrong. The Town of Old Hexham, The People's History 2002.
Keith Clark. The Muse Colony, Redcliffe Press 1992.
Wilfrid Gibson. Homecoming, Wagtail Press 2004.
Linda Hart. Once They Lived in Gloucestershire: A Dymock Poets Anthology, Green Branch Press, 2011 reprint.
Dominc Hibberd. Harold Monro and Wilfrid Gibson: The Pioneers. Cecil Woolf, The War Poets Series 7, 2006.
Roger Hogg. Wilfrid Wilson Gibson : people's poet ; a critical and biographical study of W.W. Gibson 1878-1962, Newcastle University PhD thesis 1989
Sean Street. The Dymock Poets, Seren 1994.




FROM DOCTOR KEITH ARMSTRONG'S OWN WILFRID GIBSON ARCHIVE:

Wilfrid Gibson. Battle, The Cyder Press reprint 1999.
Wilfrid Gibson. Collected Poems 1902-1925, MacMillan 1926.
Wilfrid Gibson. The Golden Room, Poems 1925-1927. Macmillan 1928.
Wilfid Gibson. Whin, Leopold Classic reprint, undated.




Tyneside writer Dr Keith Armstrong was Year of the Artist 2000 poet in residence at Hexham Races.
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, and The Hexham Riot (publication and outdoor performance).

He also has also compiled and edited a local history book ‘The Town of Old Hexham’ and organised a mini-festival celebrating the life and work of Hexham born poet Wilfrid Gibson in 2003. He appeared again at the Hexham Abbey Festival in 2008 reciting the poetry of Gibson.
His poetry book ‘The Darkness Seeping’, based on the Prior Leschman Chantry Chapel in Hexham Abbey, was published in 1997.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

EVERYBODY'S GOT LOVE BITES BUT ME


































EVERYBODY’S GOT LOVE BITES BUT ME

In this two-bit town
It’s once bitten twice shy
Chewing streets up and down
My tongue’s asking “Why?”

My teeth are on edge
No work and no necking
Just sucking this ledge
No future worth wrecking

Nothing to say
No reason to pray
Wish something lovely would hit me
Everybody’s got love bites but me

In the back of my mouth
There’s a taste of success
And word has it down south
You can talk oral sex

But in this dingy town
My lips are all cracked
Speechless at home
All sleepless and sacked

Nothing to say
No reason to pray
Wish something lovely would hit me
Everybody’s got love bites but me



KEITH ARMSTRONG

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

FALL ALMOST - A NEW POEM BY DAVE ALTON





Fall Almost



Summer’s sun thins to cloud and mist,

Sky-blue being washed out to grey,

Faces recently uplifted

Fade and pale and turn away.



Autumn colours quietly arrayed,

Gilded leaves shading to brown

Until gathering winter winds,

With cold fingers, pluck them down.



While she of four score years and ten,

Who’s the last of all she knew,

Accepts now her season has gone,

Feels she’s had more than her due.



There may still be sun yet to come,

But even so, days grow small,

Summer passes to memory,

Then will slip beyond recall.







Friday, 7 September 2018

THE WOODEN DOLLIES OF NORTH SHIELDS - NEW POEMS FROM A NEW PROJECT


















































Our Dolly


Like her sisters before her, she’s
more than a figurehead, fishwife

or a painted charm for good luck.
Our Dolly doesn’t take kindly

to being gawped at and mocked
by rowdy folk who take liberties,

pose for selfies and pocket pieces
of Dolly to take home. A different story

if you’re about to go to sea, she will
protect you, be a beacon to bring you

back home safely. Our bonny lass
Dolly watches over the beloved Tyne,

she bears our proud history, a lifetime
of industry, shipbuilding, hard graft and coal.



Catherine Graham

 

A Girl In Every Port Of Call


With duty done, the hammocks swing with talk of waiting girls,
A familiar name rings out in every sea salty heart:
Mine is called 'Dolly' ……. mine is called Dolly too.
I sleep with her under my pillow, I dream of her every night,… I do too.
I know she keeps me safe,….. I know that too.
Dolly will be waiting for me on the North Shields quay, even after dark…. mine will be too.
Dolly loves me, I keep her pressed close to my chest,… Dolly loves me and my chest too.
But does Dolly really yearn for all her besotted beaus?
Does she grieve alone when the Luttine bell tolls?
Or, does she cast another sweeping, mysterious spell across the wide divide?
Eagerly anticipating the cut of a keen new blade that will once more take her out to sea?
Will she mourn when the great oceans give up their many sunken souls?
Will the knife-wielding, rival suitors clash over Dolly’s unrequited love?
Will loving dissection and briny erosion completely dispel Dolly’s contagious myth?
Only the inscrutable, waiting Dollies know.
After all, this is their seafaring tale,
And they are saying nothing.



ROBERT LONSDALE



The new girl on the block


In 1958 the ghosts of past dollies
gather up their skirts and their baskets
and their warnings and rush
to Northumberland Square
to warn the newcomer
about men with knives

They stand in a cosy huddle
comparing wounds and scars
and talk of cuts here
and spelks there
and whether it did any good
and was it bloody worth it

They try to persuade the new lass
to come down to the Jungle
for a few drinks and whatever else
might arise but she says
she might join them later,
mebbes in sixty years or so.
 


ROB WALTON