TYNESIDE POETS!

TYNESIDE POETS!

Friday, 18 May 2018

MY FATHER WORKED ON SHIPS - SHADES OF 'STING'!





































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.




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)

‘Beautifully visual Keith, nice to share your memories.’ x (Annie Sheridan)

‘Lovely poem, loving memories too.’ (Imelda Welsh)

‘So, so good, Keith - I'll share this, if you don't mind.’ (Kenny Jobson)

Thanks for sharing your lovely words, Keith. Very poignant as today is the anniversary of my own father's death.

(Rachel Cochrane)

Saturday, 12 May 2018

TYNE ARTISTRY




Tyne Artistry: celebrating local legends in their anniversary years. Join Doctor Keith Armstrong for a talk and reading featuring specially written poems and songs to honour Jack Common (1903-1968), Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), John Cunningham (1729-1773) and Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903). Keith will be joined by folk band 'The Sawdust Jacks', who will perform new lyrics for the occasion, and Northumbrian Piper Chris Ormston with a special set of Tyneside tunes.

Local History Month.

Bewick Room, Newcastle City Library, 15th May 2018 2.30pm.

SHIELDS DAYS


Thursday, 26 April 2018

ELVET BRIDGE, DURHAM





































Elvet Bridge

(inspired by Guillaume Apollinaire)


Under Elvet Bridge the rain
flows with our loves.
Must I recall again?
Joy always used to follow after pain.

The days pass, the weeks pass
all in vain.
Neither time spent nor misspent
nor love comes back again.

Under Elvet Bridge the rain
flows with our loves.
Must I recall again?
Joy always used to follow after rain.




Keith Armstrong


http://reed.dur.ac.uk/xtf/view?docId=ark/32150_s1rx913p972.xml

Sunday, 15 April 2018

WORD SHARING ON UNESCO WORLD BOOK DAY


UNESCO WORLD BOOK DAY IN DURHAM - AND SHAKESPEARE'S BIRTHDAY!

THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL UNESCO WORLD BOOK DAY EVENT IN THE LAKESIDE ROOM, VAN MILDERT COLLEGE, DURHAM UNIVERSITY ON MONDAY 23RD APRIL AT 7PM TO PROMOTE 'WORD SHARING', THE LITERARY ANTHOLOGY CELEBRATING THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LITERARY TWINNING BETWEEN DURHAM AND TUEBINGEN. THE ANTHOLOGY HAS BEEN EDITED IN TUEBINGEN BY CAROLYN MURPHEY MELCHERS AND MICHAEL RAFFEL AND IN DURHAM BY DOCTOR KEITH ARMSTRONG.
POETS FROM DURHAM AND THE NORTH EAST WILL READ FROM THEIR POEMS IN THE ANTHOLOGY. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO COME ALONG AND READ FROM YOUR OWN CONTRIBUTION TO THE BOOK, PLEASE FEEL FREE. FAMILY OR FRIENDS MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO RENDER SOMETHING BY THE LATE JULIA DARLING, MICHAEL STANDEN AND ALAN C. BROWN.

KEITH ARMSTRONG WILL PERFORM THE INTRODUCTIONS ON THE NIGHT AND LEAD THE READINGS, ALONG WITH FELLOW CONTRIBUTORS KATRINA PORTEOUS, GARY MILLER AND PAUL SUMMERS.

POET ROB WALTON ALSO CONTRIBUTES SOME OF HIS POETRY FOR WORLD BOOK DAY.

SPECIAL GUESTS WILL BE ANDREA MITTAG AND MATTHIAS KAISER FROM TUEBINGEN WHO WILL READ FROM THEIR OWN WORK.
THEY ALSO APPEAR AT SEMINARS IN THE ENGLISH AND GERMAN DEPARTMENTS OF DURHAM UNIVERSITY DURING THEIR STAY - AND WILL CELEBRATE SHAKESPEARE'S BIRTHDAY WITH A DRINK IN THE SHAKESPEARE PUB!
THANKS TO THE KULTURAMT IN TUEBINGEN FOR SUPPORTING THE ANTHOLOGY AND IN BRINGING OUR GUESTS FROM TUEBINGEN TO DURHAM. THANKS TO DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL FOR THEIR SUPPORT TO DOCTOR KEITH ARMSTRONG IN ESTABLISHING THE LITERARY LINK IN 1987 AND FOR CONTINUED HELP OVER THE THIRTY YEARS.


WORD SHARING PREFACE

People meet, get to know one another, exchange views – and each time something is left behind: a memory, a thought, a connection, an idea which can go on to have a significant impact even many years later.
Twinning, or city partnering, harnesses the very power of meetings to constantly open up new possibilities for citizens to break down barriers. This was why County Durham and the university town of Tübingen first became partner communities in 1969. Many individuals care for and promote this link, which brings together schools, experts, artists, musi-cians as well as politicians. This is what twinning relationships are all about; strong commitment on the part of people and associations who enjoy tak-ing part in exchanges and which leave an unforgettable and long lasting effect on them and their communities.
One individual in particular stands out in this ongoing exchange be-tween Durham and Tübingen; someone who has connected both places on a literary level for not just a few years, but more than three decades – author, poet and literary activist, Dr Keith Armstrong. Thanks to his commitment over the past 30 years, more than 30 authors have found their way to their respective partner regions to seek inspiration for their work.
On the 30th anniversary of Keith Armstrong’s first visit to Tübingen in 1987, this publication seeks to serve as a testament to the strength of the partnership, as well as acknowledging those who have taken part in the project and as a chronicle of all their achievements. Twenty-two authors have contributed their texts, bringing together multiple generations and styles in this anthology which offers a vivid insight into the literary creativ-ity of the twinned communities.

County Durham and Tübingen, Autumn 2017


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

A special celebration of the literary/arts links between the cultural partners was held on May 17th 2015 at Tuebingen’s Club Voltaire as part of the Tuebingen Buecherfest.  This was arranged by poet Tibor Schneider, Michael Raffel of the Buecherfest and Doctor Armstrong. Those featured included Gary Miller, singer/songwriter from Durham band ‘The Whisky Priests’, poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Sara Hauser, Anna Fedorova, Yannick Lengkeek and Tibor Schneider and rock musician Juergen Sturm with Mary Jane.

Tuebingen poets Anna Fedorova and Yannick Lengkeek came to Durham in November 2015 for readings and discussions and Manuela Schmidt and Florian Neuner followed suit in April 2017.

Keith Armstrong returned to Tuebingen in September 2016 for readings of his many poems inspired by his visits to Tuebingen over the years, including a literary promenade around the old town and along the Neckar accompanied by accordionist Peter Weiss.
He was also there in November 2017 with fellow poet Paul Summers and Gary Miller to attend the launch of a new anthology, Word Share, published by the Cultural Office in Tuebingen and edited by Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Michael Raffel in Tuebingen and Keith Armstrong in Durham to mark 30 years of the literary twinning between Tuebingen and Durham and featuring a selection of poetry by some 22 writers from Tuebingen and Durham.
The anthlogy will have its Durham launch as part of a World Book Day event on Monday 23rd April at the University of Durham. Special guests at the event will be Andrea Midi and Matthias Kaiser visiting writers from Tuebingen.
Looking back, Keith was in Tuebingen from Tuesday 11th November 2014 to Saturday 15th when he performed his poetry in the legendary Heckenhauer’s Bookshop, one of his favourite bars The Boulanger, at the Carlo-Schmid-Gymnasium (school) and at Weinhaus Beck for a poetry breakfast. He was joined by Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser, Yannick Lengkeek and Anna Fedorova with Peter Weiss on accordion and Juergen Sturm on rock guitar and vocals.

Before this, he was in Tuebingen from Wednesday 2nd to Saturday 5th April 2014 with artist/photographer Peter Dixon for readings with Tuebingen writers Eva Christina Zeller, Sara Hauser, Tibor Schneider and Florian Neuner at Weinhaus Beck, a school visit and other networking initiatives. This followed on from his visit from Monday 4th November to Thursday 7th 2013 when he took part in a major symposium on the theme of writer Hermann Hesse who lived and worked in Tuebingen from 1895-1899. As well as joining in with the discussions and giving a reading from his poems on Hesse and Tuebingen, Keith met with poets, academics, teachers, musicians, cultural and media workers. 

Sara Hauser visited Durham from Monday 12th to Thursday 15th May 2014 for sessions at the University's English and German Departments  and meetings with local writers, artists and musicians.
So the twinning continues to go from strength to strength. Looking back on things, Armstrong and folk rock musician Gary Miller, lead singer of Durham band the Whisky Priests, travelled to Tuebingen at the end of March 2012 for performances in pubs, cabaret venues and schools where they performed with Tuebingen poet Tibor Schneider who visited Durham in October of that year as part of the ongoing exchange.
Tibor joined his Durham counterparts for readings at Durham University and at the Half Moon Inn. He was also interviewed on BBC Radio Tees concerning his Durham visit.

Keith Armstrong and Gary Miller returned the compliment with a trip to Tuebingen in March 2013 where they performed again in bars, cafes and schools with poets Tibor Schneider, Sara Hauser and Tuebingen musicians.
In 2011, Tuebingen rock musician Juergen Sturm jetted in with his music partner Mary Jane at the end of October for pub gigs, including a twinning event in Durham on Monday 31st October featuring Juergen and Mary Jane with Durham folk musicians and poets. That followed on from a visit to Tuebingen in South Germany in early April 2011 by Keith Armstrong and photographer/artist Peter Dixon. The intrepid pair worked together on a touring display featuring Armstrong's poems and Dixon's photographs documenting the unique link between Tuebingen and Durham which was staged initially in the Durham Room at County Hall, Durham in November. Armstrong performed his poetry in cafes, bars and schools and met up with Tuebingen friends, old and new, with the multi-talented Dixon capturing all of it on film.

This trip reciprocated a visit to Durham in November 2010 by Tuebingen poets Henning Ziebritzki and Carolyn Murphey Melchers, when Juergen Stuerm also took part in a series of pub performances. There was a special event at Clayport Library, Durham City on Monday November 1st with the Tuebingen poets and special guests from Durham, followed by a rousing session in the Dun Cow when Juergen, with Mary Jane, and his Durham counterparts, Gary Miller and Marie Little belted out their lively songs.
Armstrong was also in Tuebingen in May 2010 with Gary Miller for performances in his favourite Tuebingen bar ‘The Boulanger’ and at a local school. This followed a special guest appearance in 2009 at the biannual Book Festival, a reading with Tuebingen counterpart Eva Christina Zeller and a visit to local schools. Eva visited Durham for readings in schools and at a special event on May 13th 2009 at Clayport Library which also featured poets Katrina Porteous, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, and William Martin, as well as Doctor Armstrong and music from the Durham Scratch Choir and Andy Jackson.

A highly successful series of events were held in 2007 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the literary/arts twinning established by Keith Armstrong when he first visited Tuebingen in 1987 for a month’s residency, supported by Durham County Council and Tuebingen’s Kulturamt. Since then, there have been readings and performances in pubs, universities and castles, schools, libraries, book festivals, jazz and cabaret clubs, even in Hermann Hesse’s old apartment, involving poets, writers, teachers and musicians from the twin partnerships of Durham and Tuebingen.
Tuebingen’s music duo Acoustic Storm, poet/translator Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Cultural Officer visited Durham and the North East in October/November 2007. The musicians performed in Durham schools and pubs and there was a special evening in Durham’s Clayport Library to celebrate the twinning, with Keith Armstrong launching his new Tuebingen poetry booklet and performances by poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Katrina Porteous, William Martin, Michael Standen, Ian Horn, Cynthia Fuller, Hugh Doyle and musicians Acoustic Storm, Marie Little and Gary Miller. Margit Aldinger of the Kulturamt in Tuebingen and Brian Stobie of the International Department, Durham County Council, also addressed the audience.

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 Midi, 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.

The literary/arts exchange has been supported by Tuebingen’s Kulturamt and Durham County Council.


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

Friday, 30 March 2018

EARLY EASTER - BY DAVE ALTON


Early Easter

Yellow is the colour of resurrection,
Daffodils re-emerging along verges, under hedgerows,
Defying sneaky last blows of winter, cold as cynicism,
And a late insurgency of snows.

The year has just leapt on an hour towards summer
And the weighting stone’s been rolled from the lid of the compost bin,
The inside of which is alive with worms turning
Dead parings into new life when dug in.

Plots begin to be cultivated, earth impregnated with seed,
Lawns are being mown, then scarified after a fashion,
As sun begins to try and remember it’s supposed to be warm;
And there’s no mistaking the gardener in his passion.

Dave Alton

Friday, 23 March 2018

BYKER HILL





Poems by Keith Armstrong



FIRST PUBLISHED BY IRD 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

Monday, 19 March 2018

TELL ME LIES ABOUT NORTHUMBERLAND


 

































(in honour of Adrian Mitchell)


Say this land is ours,
these pipe tunes do not cry.
The birds all sing in dialect,
old miners breathe like dukes.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Tell me it isn’t feudal,
that castles were built for us.
We never touch the forelock,
bend to scrape up dust.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Your pretty girls don’t stink of slaughter,
your eyes don’t blur with myth.
You’re as equal as a duchess,
saints never smell of piss.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Your roots are in this valley,
you were never from doon south.
You never hide your birthplace,
you’re a real poet of the north.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

The churches are not crumbling,
the congregations glow with hope.
We are different from the foreigner,
our poetry rhymes with wine.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

There is no landed gentry,
no homes locals can’t afford.
There’s no army on the moors,
the Romans freed us all.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

That the hurt is in the past,
the future holds no war.
Home rule is at our fingertips,
the Coquet swims with love.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

‘The Garden’ is our children’s,
Hotspur spurs us on.
The seagulls are not soaked in oil,
the cows are not diseased.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

This Kingdom is United,
‘Culture’ is our God.
Everyone’s a Basil Bunting freak,
there’s music everywhere.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

We will have our independence,
we’ll get the Gospels back.
We live off museums and tourists,
we don’t need boats or trades.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.

We’re in charge of our own futures,
we have north east citizens here.
In this autonomous republic,
we’re free as dicky birds.

So shut your eyes.

And tell me lies

about Northumberland.




KEITH ARMSTRONG
 

Mo Shevis: I think Adrian Mitchell would have been well and truly honoured by that one Keith! 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

IN MY DREAMS: NEW FROM DAVE ALTON





In My Dreams”

(J. Brown)



This man who didn’t play the banjo,

This man didn’t play there and then,

This man through all eternity

Didn’t play the banjo again.



This man plays the ukulele

And such is his endeavour,

This man plays a ukulele

Forever and forever.



Dave Alton

Saturday, 10 March 2018

ALAN C. BROWN 1922-2014






 





































ODE TO TCHAIKOVSKY: MY WHITE STONE

Tchaikovsky-man, I found you on manoeuvres; or, well at least when I went off to War
In Air Force blue, against Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
You’d won my heart, the red heart of a teenager.
Your rich sound bursting in upon my soul,
Filling it with refreshment - hope’s last brave star.
That was like the discovery of some new planet;
I dialled into whenever I was alone,
Played your first record, or tuned into the camp radio.
For me HAMLET floated like mist across dimmed fields.
MANFRED and FRANCESCA filled my blue eyes with warm tears
Of love, and pain, unknown in earth and sky;
Until seldom cut off like some hard crooked knot,
Or stygian gloom, that nothing could unravel or remove;
I learned to love and touch, like a white stone,
Your breathing heart, to me a second home,
For you were music, poured into me like blood,
And set me marching out, bravely on dark hard roads.
Until we praised everything life gives us, or takes away.



VISITING THE POET

The present is the funeral of the past,
And man the living sepulchre of life.”


Stood stiffly in one corner poor John Clare
Became a woman’s shoe – a stricken elm tree.
“I have no voice,” he said in a solemn tone,
“Stranger are you a screech-owl or a dead star?”


At a smooth polished table top he’d stare,
And glancing up suddenly say, “Alas, why?”
“I was a poet once you know. But I
Am now an elm with winter in my hair.


“A strong taste’s in my mouth of sour peaches,
Like Mary’s breasts, or was it some other bint’s?
A hyacinth is forking in my pants.
Young man are you a doctor? Where’s my pulse?
It’s funny what the night wind calls and teaches;
Don’t listen, what she says is always false!”



SONNET TO R. M. RILKE

“Come here into the candlelight, 
I’m not afraid to look at the dead.”

You who walked into other peoples’ deaths,
As if that wasn’t an odd thing to do,
And even more write about it so well,
As if the passage to death and life were one.
And could be possessed again by new-minted words,
You constructed out of thin misty air,
Something undoubtedly saw as the poet’s task,
And his alone, to know such hard-edged secrets
And write of them as if you were a God,
Who saw everything eventually was good,
Although most of them took a long time indeed,
To cross over, in praise, from death to life,
For the Eternal owns still a thin gold key
That opens everything closed – helps us see souls.























 











NOT JUST A GAP

To Christine Keeler

In twenty twelve you’re still alive, confessing your
Youthful sex experience wasn’t that great,
You seldom really enjoyed it; and what’s more
Affairs with men were now less frequent of late,

Since you are now aged 70, and far less
Addicted - as you were in the sixties to it.
What claims your love now? A cat and garden birds
Men are so shallow, you do not want to hit
On them; they either are big heads or nerds,

Now at your age you’re wiser, and don’t sink
Under the weight of sneers, scandals or stress,
Nor do you blush with shame, or even blink
At being called - a dumbbell, or honey-trap.
Nor can you be summed up as just – a gap.
















































Mary Wollstonecraft 1759 - 1797

Such things don’t grow often from thin-boned childhood,
Or infant gold, to fine womanhood, brave as
a solitary night–star in a full sky, silent and held
As in our arms, a welcoming wounded wonder;
The soft arms of caring love, something often
Evading you Mary, though always worthy of you,
As pain-born sorrow, accepted as new day,
One you autosensed, because you lived on earth,
One you remembered in heart and mind
More than a million others could have, because,
They once lived and died, as women among us,
Leaving behind them the thin perfume of your special
mystical, ghostly, mark of perfection, on all that
You touched, or tasted and were in your fine bones;
Women marked out to be all gold, but few who star
Our ordinary skies, then as now; even though imperfect
under a dark cloud, that shadows you strongly;
Even as an anti-saint by suffering made one and great;
Blessed by strange light and dark alternately
Textured by what it means to be new white love,
Love, even god cannot remove from such as you,
Try as he may, Mountain Top of our hopes,
And surely also His, in an intense way.
His, the crucified, with nailed hands, reaching out
For your wounded hands alone, even though
They are imperfect and not ivory innocent;
You, of the chosen few who speak for themselves.
And all of us whatever we are; loosen or hold.
Plain women or men, charcoal at heart, or gold;
Whispers or shadows, pearls and sea-shells.


POEM ABOUT GROWING OLD


I am now at the stage of shutting doors, against
Rainfall and nightmare; doors, left carelessly half ajar.
At the half-way stage of rusted wheels and wires,
Entanglement of sharp thorn-branches, closing off
Invisible roads, obscure signposts, of what
Once was, but cannot be born again now.

I bend down to pick up scattered dusty shards,
Tea-cups, torn papers, full ash trays left on a small
Table, and carpeted corridors, empty of unexpected
Visitors, who seldom knock, but enter now,
Or leave early if they do, without pebbled words
In their mouths, or acknowledgement in glazed eyes.

I am now at the time of carefully locking windows,
And doors at night, before mounting stairs,
To sleep, or else to lie with scratched open eyes,
Staring at dark walls, blank ceiling, or shut windows;
I am an insomniac, turning like dark waves,
The noise of waters, against a dark shore.

When at last, asleep, I recall – myself, alone
Outspread like water or a bent flower.
Where the sun takes off her shoes and walks
Among trees, splashing like wind or rain;
And the moon removes her clothes and sings
Like a nightingale, lost among green branches,

The moon’s body is made of mother of pearl.
She shines like a candle-lit human skull;
I want to embrace her naked as wind,
I want to embrace her as a sultry wind
In Spain does, among chill cherry trees,
Or distant hills of mist before ashen nightfall.




NAKED BENEATH THE MASK 


to Anais Nin 
When it began, with Joaquin perhaps,
The fugue and counterpoint of Paris life; 
Drunk on music, first and last - the child,
And yes the woman differently; the Persian 
Venus, a temple prostitute, baptised as such; 
Drowned, by the beauty in men, in women;
Incense, black slaves, cushions, lilies,
Fantasies, follies; ambience, openness; 
The sterile love of two ghosts; cold mirrors.

What else? Dark eyes. Red mouth. Noh mask, your self, 
Seeking a new image in others, impossible. 
With eyes the colour of water; open to miracles;.
Astarte, caged behind bars of gold, you go 
Already imprisoned by myth, masked. 

Tired, too tired to fight on, too tired to hope;. 
Music, flowers, at the last, these only, 
Bending pain into a harp of gold; 
Until over blue ocean a scatter of ashes fall; 
And come full circle; emptied, you’re full;
Naked as dawn - without the mask.


NAKED VOLTAGE      
“What fortitude the soul contains.
That it can so endure.”
 Emily Dickinson
Though you resist I think you back earth-side: 
Amherst - soil-smell, breathing buzz if bee-sound;
Life-fever in your living veins – enough joy;
Absence – a presence, fractured light behind woods.
I grow in the heat of your shadow, comforted.
My bones stitched to Naked Voltage – yours;
White absence under my hands, earth-heat and home,
However late by owl-light I yet return,
As you did - Wayward Nun - to holy ground. 
Rooted in arid earth you’re still answering gold.
Groomed for death – no-where abandoned by God.
See how your words – small children – each one in turn
Held heavily in the crook of one bent arm,
Dazzle like liquid light, being re-born.
Did you taste death before them? No, you’re alive!
Un-menaced by the world; by whirling cinders 
Of love; you balance equally – heaven and earth
With inexhaustible tenderness, shouldering still 
The numinous - in everything - low or high.
Back of you fields of grain - vast as the sky. 
DANGEROUS SANCTUARY 
“For me love is always more significant more sacred than
The object that stirs it” Rosa Luxemburg

I enter you, dangerous sanctuary
Through the flash of your intense eyes.
Sister of Judith and Faust’s betrayed beloved,
You flare out from those enigmatic mirrors.
In every dark fibre of your voice
There’s no escape; I lose myself 
Afraid to scald your wounds 
With impotent broken-backed words.
Your malevolent assassination is
A window of farewells; a caravan
That goes off, leaving behind sour ground.
The thud of rifle butts, the lugers fatal bark!
The malice of mangy, jack-booted dogs.
Look! You wait for me even though
You died three years before I was born.
You are a bridge without a road, 
A night-star not yet named; 
Receding light, moving on yet 
 towards a vague, distant shore.
No you’ve not missed your time.
 It’s yet to come. I reach out my hand 
Testing the tracks - they’re inaccessible!
Look, through yourself you’ve gone!
Through your self the universe flows,
History slows and is stopped
By what you marked out as yours.
Anxious we ask, where now can 
Someone like you be found,
(Shrewd, erudite, passionate)
To seed unsown fallow ground?
Look! Full harvest brightens -
Serene, harmonious, abundant,
(Not the silliest of political programmes.)
Something alive earth-side you 
never knew. But posthumously saw.
Something textured in your veins:
A terracotta jug wedged in sand?
A portrait unframed behind cracked glass?
No. For you, to whom love was a faculty of seeing;
Freedom, always for the one who thinks differently;
Mens santa in corpore sano
(The wise keep up with the spirit of the times)
Revolutiona fanfare declaiming
Jch war, ich bin, ich werde sein!
(“I was, I am, I shall be again!)

Don’t fret because of you stature,
Small things can also bewitch us!
Look now the sky over you – is an epiphany!



Sir Alan!





Alan C. Brown was a founder of the Tyneside Poets and kept it going with his monthly poetry workshops in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was a true stalwart of the Tyneside poetry scene and deserved a medal for his amazing stamina and ongoing commitment to the encouragement of others. 
Here is a selection of his recent poetry:



LIFE IS LIKE THAT 2

Believe me –the greatest enjoyment of existence
is: to live dangerously

Friedrich Nietzsche 



Brittle glass? Not that. But inevitable shakedown
Came surprisingly on the gentler front 
Of his women; not many, but all fatal:
The Leipzig whore who gifted a student lapse
With slow, but predictable paralyses;
Lou Andreas, a repressed intellectual,
He nicknamed, ‘A Monkey with false breasts’
A Queen Bee who’d droned, de-winged his adversary
In courtship, Paul, with the same blank coin she’d dished
Out to all cocksure males that crossed her path;
Until later on absorbing Sigmund Freud,
Deflowering Rilke, she put herself in line
For something else: a continuous springing of Seed.
The third, an unexpected distanced hope at best,
Recipient of his last note, signed, Dionysus.
Elizabeth, his sister, sinister shattered glass,
Closed all accounts with lies- She was his last.

Brittle glass? No, rather a catatonic rock-crest
When Zarathustra burst in on his mind like magma;
And all was collusive, given the death of God,
Glistening icy cold unstable as water.
Mistaken? Driven?  Recall his dark saying,
“There was only one Christian – he died on a cross” 
Crossed out? Double-crossed? Going unarmed to women;
Had he who’d advised us all to use the whip
Done so himself, perhaps we’d snatch our souls back,
And become supermen, even should the bomb drop.





PURE LOVE 

We must follow after God, never precede Him,
When he gives the signal we must leave all and follow him.
Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon


Kept in the dark, we gain all being stripped
Of everything. The surgeon would need no sharp knife
If the flesh were sound. If we were not gripped 
And wounded by our last enemy – the self.

Whatever we cling to too much must be snatched; 
Form us, before we can enter eternal life,
Our sufferings, only when they are matched
By cowardice are doubled, disabling relief.

Kept in the dark is gain, come leap into it,
As into the absurd, that makes no sense,  
That is a place where love and faith exist, 
That brings the grace of final recompense.

Kept to the Other’s Will, avoids disgrace,
And passions us to see God face to face.





THINKING ABOUT QUIET THINGS


Potted indoor plants on a smudged window sill,
A prospect into a Zen garden seen through glass
Such dumb things with their own quietness fill
Out the present moment, wood fences, sparse grass,
Together with a flat dull redbrick wall 
Have the same fluid mood flooded with grace,
If we allow them like a presence to fall 
Into our mind detached from time and space.

There is a green gift given of quietude,
Something we miss, rushing from place to place;
But something brief moments of solitude
Open to watchful eyes like a flower’s soft face,
A healing wholeness, waiting to enter us,
Locked in inert things, placid, at peace.

VISITING NEVERS  



The winged chair, you sat in 
Unable to sleep at night - Remains. 
Glows beneath protective glass;
But now you are not there.

The rose-beads on a snapped chain,
The rusted crucifix discoloured by time, 
Are those you fingered once in prayer.

The frayed old books 
Their pages yellowish-brown with age, 
Survive out-spread, untouched, unread;
Closed off from your hands

But we are aware, of them, and 
Of what you were: 
Something taken up by God 
And laid aside, like a broom. 
And also of what you are 

Beyond these left things.
Glittering like a white star
Undimmed by time - Not frayed 
Or rusted, broken or unused 
Your prayer – takes wings!



DISCOVERIES AT TYNEMOUTH 



I am waiting to find fine amber words
To float me in a row boats flaxen moonlight.
But they‘re too quick, and slippery to hold,
Nimble as pink sea urchins detected in 
Creviced wet sand, beneath a lifted stone.

I wait to lift up in two wet cupped hands,
Words, brittle and spent, as shrivelled leaves,
Agape and moist as specimens in glass jars,
Exact and limpid as a child’s rock-pool eyes,
Words, simple as open light, or printed sand. 

Those, no screwed down lid, or rippled water sheaths;
But these are those, not I, but others find.
Those that run sideways like quicksilver crabs,
Others restrain, and join with easy linkage, 
Like the knotted stems, of a child’s daisy chains.

Words round and clear, lacking raw empty spaces,
Others nail down, against a darkening landscape
That shine like moonlight lakes or stars;. I turn
Mine over gently, like indistinct coins,
Sunsets with bandaged eyes, throbbing with fever; 

But when I look once more they’re scarecrow thin.



ASK ANY SAINT

We must love our own poverty, as Jesus loves it.

Thomas Merton 


Think your own thoughts, do your own thing – alas
Unlike the Desert within, where few survive,
Most of us chose the easy way, and pass
Into distractions - where Love cannot live. 

What to do then? Uprooted from ourselves 
How can we keep the spark within alive? 
Don’t compromise, be patient with yourselves;
Only by honest courage can you thrive

And grow aware of God in everything,  
And yes, content with what we have right now,
This alone can to our weak struggles bring
Us to a place, unlike the one we know,
One wholly other, ever emerald green, 
With nothing overhead - or in between.


ABOUT ADOLF HITLER


“We have burned our bridges – more, 

we have burned the land behind us.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


Beginning your metronomic rise to Führer, from grotesque zero,
We follow your staggered course with eyes half shut. 
What was it made such possible, smooth as butter?
That question still has no clear answer to us.
Maybe that’s why your shadow still haunts our steps;
There seems to be a flaw in this old fascination;
But we can’t yet put a probing finger on it.
Does it go deeper in us, than most can guess,
That we can’t shut the book, or shift acid debris,
Clotted with blood, from off our hands, our face?
The answers crumble in us, thick as laid dust.
Why’s that? To go back enlightened of mind 
Should give us strength to understand the black lust 
Within all of us, that is unbeaten, unhurt,
We don’t like to concentrate on that overmuch,
Like Rousseau we like to look on the bright side,
And think, we weren’t born tainted and weak,
And if evil exists, it isn’t our fault at least;
We wouldn’t accept a crooked, evil mystique 
What can we say in conclusion about our theme?
That seems to have an extended life, half blind:
Nietzsche would not have been fazed by such bald lies;
Spinoza, not by Hitler’s threadbare mind.