Wednesday, 20 March 2019
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?
through the pebbles,
We leave our mark,
on the ancient landscape.
We dance like the sunlight
on your scarred body:
Friday, 1 March 2019
It is still too early for leaves
Even though daffodil shoots
Are already pressing green fingers
Through. Meanwhile, as a crow loots
An unnecessary bird feeder,
There’s a woman of four score
Years and more waiting, with her frame,
For transportation. The door
To the ward won’t open on home,
Or those leafless trees beyond
Her back hedge, and the crow will fly
From the daffodil grasped ground.
Friday, 8 February 2019
(for Kathleen Sisterson)
There’s an old station
I keep dreaming of
where I wandered
as a child;
seep with longing
pant with steam.
It might have been
in a summer’s field,
when I realised
life could be,
in the sunshine
of my songs;
or it might have been
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
ran up the platform
of his life
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:
the hours flew
and the railway
ran into my veins
history in my soul.
In this album
of a fragile world,
I’d like to leave
for you to find
a tune to play
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
and found his way
along the tracks
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)
Monday, 21 January 2019
‘Search where Ambition rag'd, with rigour steel'd;
Where Slaughter, like the rapid lightning, ran;
And say, while mem'ry weeps the blood-stain'd field,
Where lies the chief, and where the common man?’
‘Unto thy dust, sweet Bard! adieu!
Thy hallow'd shrine I slowly leave;
Yet oft, at eve, shall Mem'ry view
The sun-beam ling'ring on thy grave.’
This week an elegant tombstone, executed by Mr. Drummond of this town, was set up in St. John's church-yard to the memory of the late ingenious Mr. John Cunningham. The following is the inscription thereon:
‘Here lie the Remains of JOHN CUNNINGHAM.
Of his Excellence as a Pastoral Poet,
His Works will remain a Monument
After this temporary Tribute of Esteem
Is in Dust forgotten.
He died in Newcastle, Sept 18, 1773,
The ritual slaughter
against the furious economy,
the commerce of suffering,
the pain of money,
nudges your bones
in this graveyard of hollow words.
I hear you liked a jar
well, here’s me
your precious monument
with a little local wine,
lubricating the flowers
that burst from your pastoral verses.
You toured the boards like me,
with your heart,
pouring real blood on your travelling sleeve.
Oh, my God!
your lips trembled
with a delicate love
for the fleeting joy,
the melancholic haze,
the love in a mist,
that Tom Bewick sketched in you
amd Mrs Slack fed
as you passed along
this way and that
despair in your eyes.
The fact was
you were not born
for the rat race
the ducking and fawning
for tasteless prizes,
the empty bloated rivalry,
the thrust of their bearded egos.
You wanted wonder,
the precise touch
of the sun on your grave,
the delicious kiss
that never comes back.
I’m with you, ‘Cuny’
in this Newcastle Company of Comedians;
I’m in your clouds of drunken ways;
I twitch with you
in my poetic nervousness
along Westgate Road.
And the girls left their petals for you
like I hope they do for me
in the light of the silver moon,
thinking of your pen
scratching stars into the dark sky.
'In another part of the field, another field, let's
face it, sits Keith Armstrong's rakish gaff. (His)
poems are rooted in the Tyneside music hall tradition,
closely behind which was the august balladry of the
Borders. His is an unashamed bardic stance, actor
rather than commentator. His politics are personal.
Throughout the collection the authentic lyrical note
of this northern poet is struck.' (Michael Standen,
Saturday, 12 January 2019
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.
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.