Monday, 24 April 2017
Saturday, 22 April 2017
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.
Friday, 14 April 2017
Is there something divine in everyday life? Is there a source of human cognition and feelings? On 26 and 27 April, two young writers from the University of Tübingen will read from their works and discuss their influences and linguistic ideas. The writers come to Durham City in the context of a civic literary partnership that began in 1969. This event is organised by Dr Keith Armstrong, Northern Voices Community Projects. Manuela Schmidt studies study art history and anthropology and takes inspiration from “encounters and chats with people from all over the world with extraordinary world views, open hearts and minds; language barriers and dictionaries”.
Florian Neuner’s PhD is in Philosophy on Fichte and Hölderlin. His inspiration comes from “the shattered individual and intellectual; own demons of the subconscious. Is there something divine in everyday life? Is there a source of human cognition and feelings? Literature is a created furyhouse of human experience: a creation of space and a space of creation.”
The writers come to Durham City in the context of a civic literary partnership that began in 1969; further information about this partnership can be found here. Durham University and the University of Tübingen also share an evolving university partnership through the Matariki Network of Universities.
The readings will take place in Elvet Riverside 149 on Wednesday, 26 April from 4pm to 6pm and St Chad’s College Chapel on Thursday, 27 April at 6pm. All are welcome and there is no booking required. For further information please call Dr Keith Armstrong, Northern Voices Community Projects, on 0191 2529531.
Thursday, 6 April 2017
THE YEAR OF THE OX
It was 1789 the Year of the Great Ox,
the year the beast got loose in Paris,
when Whitley Bay was sleeping.
The year of the storming,
when John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge,
his heart breaking with painting visions;
the year of the slaying
of old regimes
when royalty hung in the slaughterhouse.
The Ox walked seven days,
like a doomed aristocrat
to have its tallow used to light the night,
to show the way
for the Rights of Man,
to sacrifice its beastly life
to keep a candle burning
and give us hope
and faith and charity,
a glint from God
and a gleam in Thomas Bewick’s eye
as he engraved the swollen moment
for all to see.
THROUGH THE EYES OF A GREAT OX
what could you see?
The mob grabbing your life,
and Tom Horsley’s butcher’s axe
hanging over your great spirit
as you valiently strode
the mucky road,
along the throbbing seashore,
through the pestilence of Tyneside,
its filth and flames,
its poisoned air and quack’s potions,
its Geordie beauty and debauch.
Edward Hall thought he owned you.
After a few beers, he thought the very universe was his.
But you, my sturdy fellow, were your own Ox
and could see the folly
of the swinish multitude
as it came to get you
to rip out your guts
and feed the Duke and Duchess,
and all their grasping subjects,
to satiate their appalling vanity.
You had more dignity than them.
You gave up your animal life
While Eddie Hall he died in pomp,
you, my massive beauty, were unselfish,
a Great Beast
full of love,
the very meat
of life itself
in all its morning glory,
in all its starry wonder;
the wide and beautiful sky
through the miraculous eyes of an Ox.
THE CONSTITUTION OF AN OX
It had the Constitution of an Ox:
Girth at the belly 10 feet 9 inches
Girth at the loins 10 feet 4 inches
Girth at the shoulders 10 feet 3 inches
Girth behind the shoulders 9 feet 9 inches
Breadth at the hips 3 feet
Breadth at the shoulders 2 feet 6 inches
Height at the fore-crop 5 feet 9 iches
Height at the loins 5 feet 11 inches
Height from the ground to the breast 1 feet 6 inches
Weight 216 stones 8lbs.
That was the Constitution of the Ox.
The track record, shape, volume, build, realm, history, cut and nub of it, the scale of things, the order of the Ox, the full measure of the beast drawn by Thomas Bewick for all of us in awe of it, in a world that never ceases, to astonish.