Sunday, 28 November 2010

Two new poems



It is January,   
St. Alban`s bells cry out.
A single shaft of light
cuts through the trees.
The snow lies thin.
In this thread-bare corner
names are carved in stone,
Armstrong, Duffy,
Ford and Young.
The north wind blows
and barren fields stretch out.
On this bleak winter`s day
a shadow`s cast
to Hartley and beyond.

(Beneath a broken beam
two shifts collide,
Hindmarch, Hodge and
entwined in death)

The light begins to fade.
A hooded crow descends,
black as coal,
death resurrects the past.


Crocuses grow
and Hartley hides its grief.
Traffic flows
where waggons hauled
and black dust filled the air.
The children play
where miners worked the seam.

(The Blyth & Tyne slips past.
Bewick, Brown
and Nicholson,
a shift too far.)

Death demanded change.
The pit has gone,
king coal dethroned,
laid quietly to rest.

The dappled light
and birdsong on the breeze.
A hint of spring
wanders across the fields.
Hartley thrives.

Geoff Holland

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


I don’t mix with poets,
They’re so boring.
I don’t mix with poets,
They’re too self-adoring.
I mix with drunk Magpies,
I mix with no lies,
I mix with a bit on The Side.
I don’t mix with poets,
They’re parasitic.
I don’t mix with poets,
They’re soporific.
I mix with nice girls,
I mix with dumb animals,
I mix with wild birds on The Wall.
I don’t mix with poets,
They’re stand-offish.
I don’t mix with poets,
They’re too foppish.
I mix with my fantasies,
I mix with realities,
I mix with the maids of the seas.
I don’t mix with poets,
They’re just sycophants.
I don’t mix with poets,
They get Arts Council grants!
Keith Armstrong
Commissioned by BBC Radio Newcastle for National Poetry Day 2002

Saturday, 20 November 2010


‘Farewell, aad tree!
where once the craws
in times gyen bye
did nest an’ build; 
ne mair ye’ll feel
thor dusty claws
cling te yor branch,
for noo yor kill’d.’
(written in 1889 after the felling of a large elm tree on Barras Bridge, Haymarket, Newcastle, from which the old ‘Crow’s Nest’ pub took its name)

Friday, 12 November 2010



1. A commemorative book, with the Hartley Calamity history and creative writing from young and old, together with a selection from the poetry of Pitman Poet Joseph Skipsey, poems by Dr Keith Armstrong and a Skipsey biography, with an insert CD to the book featuring Keith and others performing their Hartley poems and those of Skipsey, together with folk musicians. Photos of memorial, church and churchyard, new photos of colliery site and contributors in situ plus historical images and engravings. 

2. A series of performances in Earsdon/New Hartley/North Shields etc, featuring folk music and poetry, including poems by Joseph Skipsey (with a special performance of his long ballad on Hartley) and Hartley creative writing (poems and lyrics) from young and old.

3. A number of stimulus sessions in schools/community centres etc led by Keith Armstrong to encourage Hartley creative writing from young and old.

4. A touring display created by Peter Dixon. 

Monday, 1 November 2010


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.