Thursday, 29 December 2011


"She Quakes" is the first contribution in what is intended to be a fruitful link with the New Zealand Poetry Society. This poem is particularly poignant as Tynebard was in Christchurch in December 2010 during the series of earthquakes, two more significant ones of which struck there recently.


Earth groans,

her trembling begins,

her tectonic plates shift.

Ground cracks and leaps,

burping sludge bubbles upwards,

locked energy, released in a noisy belch.

Her movement, restrained for centuries,

escapes, in a series of sideway jolts,

stretching her reach, testing her strength,

- she quakes.

On her surface, green and warm,

above her inner heat and energy,

small creatures scatter.




            and pancake

to the ground.

The creatures are crushed,

cut and burnt.

Gases escape and ignite.

Rivers seek new paths,

waste and water break free.

Blocks of stone fall from

where man has put them:

heaped on her surface,

broken, disorderly.

Bells of iron shout as they fall.

Still stretching and moving,

she continues to quake,

seeking a new position to rest in.

Deryn Pittar (deryn@xtra.co.nz)

Sunday, 25 December 2011


The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Neville Hall, Westgate
Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE. Tel: 0191 232 2201.




To commemorate the anniversary of the 1862 disaster a programme of events are planned in the area. Norman Jacksons talk at the Institute on Thursday 26th January will be supplemented by poems and music, the programme for the evening is:
5:30pm Tea and Coffee in the Library.
6:00pm Lecture by Norman Jackson.
6:40pm Questions.
Adjourn to the Library. Buffet and drinks.
7:00pm Launch of a new book about the Hartley Calamity, edited by Keith Armstrong and published by Northern Voices Community Projects with the support of North Tyneside Council.
Keith Armstrong, Catherine Graham and others will read poems and stories from the new book including Joseph Skipsey's Hartley ballad, with singer/songwriter Gary Miller performing Keiths Hartley lyric and other mining songs and piper Chris Ormston performing his Lament for Hartley and other appropriate tunes.
Copies of the book will be available for sale during the event.
8:30/9:00 close.


14 January 2012: New Hartley Memorial Hall,
Beeswing in concert. Also featuring Keith Armstrong.
15 January 2012: 11am, Memorial Service at St. Alban's Church.
15 January 2012: 4pm, Memorial Service at New Hartley Memorial Hall accompanied by Ellington Brass Band. The new Memorial Banner will be unveiled.
15 January 2012: 7.30 – 9.30pm Whitley Bay Playhouse, a concert by the Grimethorpe Brass Band.
16 January 2012: 11am, A short memorial service will be held at the New Hartley pit head in the memorial garden.


Saturday 17th  March from 7 – 9pm in the Library.

2012 provides several anniversaries of mining disasters so, to re-balance this a little, well be holding an event celebrating the 180th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Skipsey, the Tyneside Pitman Poet.
The event includes Keith Armstrong, Gary Miller(Whisky Priests) and pipe player Chris Ormston, with readings from Skipseys poetry and an account of his life.
During the evening, the annual Northern Voices Joseph Skipsey Award will be presented to a deserving local writer.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


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

The Earl’s pale forehead is cool and cloudy;
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

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Night Watch

Town of a thousand holes, at the bottom

Of each a dark boggart lurks cunningly

Creating mischief for careless souls who’re

Simply passing. Urban plastic tendrils

Squirm, coil and wrap around the bed ridden

Riding alive through comatose dreaming.

All the while, tower blocks round and about,

Facades irritated by rashes of light

Wind is scratching, rain hardly soothing,

Pluck up their concrete roots and, like golems,

Lurch along through pedestrian precincts,

Passed shops and stores blinded by steel shutters

Billed with vainglorious posters proclaiming

Imminent revolution, this week’s sales,

Or the immanence of God and the end

Of Days. Even as ungainly tower blocks

Retreat beyond traffic lights, boggarts

Emerge from excavations flimsily

Fenced round with barbers’ poles, in such a way

Shadows might ease free from corporeal

Bodies responsible for casting them.

Night is the product of curtains being drawn

Against streets that have to be abandoned

To darkness, light so selfishly horded

In living rooms, in the eyes of voyeurs

Who do not realise televisions

Are vampires that exist by sucking life-time

From their fascinated victims. Too late

They switch off, for it’s bed time, deathbed time.

The night watch is running slow, leaden hands

Weighing every heavy second, holding

Each one just too long, making the minutes

Fall behind the clock. A hospital cot

Easily contains these remains of a man,

So little of him left, his shadow gone.

Even breath can be no longer his own,

Generous town sharing its air with him

Via one of those serpentine urban tendrils

Worming its way through the wall to his nostrils.

Hardly a burden with so little left

Him to draw from his account. Family

Come and sit and sit and go in relays

Of concern, keeping his lips barely moist

With final kisses and cool water soaked

Into pink sponge swabs on thin lollysticks

Looking like unspun candyfloss. Night watch

Knits or reads or plugs into World Service

While drowsing on the one comfy armchair.

For all that time is tardy dawn still comes,

Shift changes, while night and day will remain

All the same to him even as tower blocks

Step back into place, boggarts burrow back

Into earth and the curtains are drawn back,

Back and back, releasing light from their rooms

To illuminate awakening streets

And the living realising they are so.

                                                               Dave Alton

Saturday, 26 November 2011


Sun sets on Empire,
a football sinking in the sky.
Dreams are gone,
the kicks we had.
I see their ghosts in The Strawberry night:
Len White and George Eastham,
Gordon Hughes and Liam Tuohy,
Alf McMichael, Jimmy Scoular.
Roaring Boys of one hue or another:
Alan Suddick and Jim Smith,
John McGrath and Dick Keith,
Dave Hilley and Andy Penman.
Stalwart lads from an industrial past,
hold on to those memories.
Golden Balls of light
shine on the surface of The Tyne,
ripple in the mind.
Great times were had
and peanuts tanner a bag.
Swaying lads on the Popular Side,
Oxo down our throats.
Chuck us a cup,
we're thirsty.
from 'true faith' the newcastle united fanzine for which keith armstrong has been poet-in-residence


Tuesday, 22 November 2011


When Gagarin finally opened his eyes

He saw what Ptolemy saw, it was just

An issue of precedence it appeared.

And had that thin flare rocketed him out

At the speed of light, then all there ever was,

All there’ll ever be, played in the same instant.

"If you look in the heavens for heaven,”

Jesus might have said to Didymos Judas,

“Don’t expect there to be a single star.”

But of all the spheres there is only this one

Where there is music, even if others

Are not silent they haven’t yet been tuned.

Sitting in his chair bolstered on false feet

The old pianist looks out through slatted blinds

At a melody of autumnal stars.

Too soon, as it always is and will be,

Curtains are drawn, pricks of light excluded,

And a whole life passes in a moment.

When it comes to being launched into space

Eyes shut as a reflex. Meanwhile, on earth,

A fine piano stands with its lid closed.


Dave Alton

Friday, 18 November 2011

More from the archives of Poetry North East

Tolstoy's brother plants a green stick in the estate at Yasnaya Polyana.
It has happened before.

The woods at Yasnaya Polyana.

Eyeless leaves
rustle their neighbour's faces. Sough,
Sough. The wind. Tolstoy's brother
plants his green stick.

'If ever you find
this carved secret. Earth
will have greened a Paradise.'

Green, green.

Black men, abiding their wilderness,
scorch the defoliated, wriggling grub.

Whitely the ferry chunters us
between bays. In oiled dispersions
of wateriness we sprinkle to our rest.

The cut religious stick fades
among first plantantions. Wind heaves.
Wordlessly, it vanished, bearing
what the hand gave, of brief warmth.

O supple Paradise. Integument
prime as our mother's breats
folding milk.

The pouched marsupial intelligence,
its care, its teeth, stained with grass,
its leap to the peaceable knigdom, that,
that and no other thing, where is it?

The greening of a cut, wordless
Australasian stick. Wind lifts
like a huge leaf. Lovely questions
folitate the Pacific. 

                                                                                    Sydney 1974

Jon Silkin

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Three Poems from the Archives of Poetry North East

Your Words

your words like echoes across an empty carpark,

torturing the trees that made us sleep,

     lost pines, scenting the evening

     falling secrets from your wet mouth.

your words like small whips against my back,

swaying in the dead music,

     a harmony of sour wine,

     shines, and stands up to boast.

your words like raindrops against cracked windows,

seeping quietly through my loud skull,

     the virgin and the widow within

     can only tell me of love.

your words like marching ghosts from their graves,

tearing hearts with invisible hands

     a clash of dark weapons beneath the sand,

     the smile vanishing quickly into space.

your words come and go like passing ships,

slotting into violent grey seascapes,

     impossible pathways, twisting back the head

     to see the last movement of lips.

your words

your words will live forever

     as soon as I see what you say.

                                        Paul Harland

Sunset In Chopwell Woods

The sun is balanced on the straight edge

Of a distant hill;

A filmed dancer in tip-toe pose

She collapses into herself

With slow serenity

Like a moving picture

Whose projection has slowed.

And last left

Is a curved lip of light

And the afterflow

When the audience flows

With delight to applaud

And the curtains close

On a perfect show.

                                        Wendy Zoula

Visitation (Leazes Park)

In the early chapter of a mid-winter’s day

only the bird-choirs erase

the stillness of trees.

Something moves and you consider.

With this existence evolves the judgement

of thought

after the acceptance of memory.

                                        Gordon Phillips

Demolition of Sunderland Town Hall

Such a building as you were

Demands an epitaph

As much as sealed copies of The Times,

Sovereigns and musty ideas of the future

They launched you with a century ago.

Your citizens won’t miss you,

Though you were their Hall,

To a stranger – well

It happens all the time.

Another hotel? What the hell,

We live in suitcases,

Who needs pillars?

The bells hanging from the end of a crane

Toll surprisingly deep, rhythmic, unnoticed.

                                        Michael Standen

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Poems by Keith Armstrong



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
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
snot runs
licks cracked mouth

any old rags
any old rags

as raby street

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

on her last legs

creeps like a lizard over the face of byker
dragging behind it its retinue of planners
                                                builders and

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