jingle jingle!

jingle jingle!

30.11.10

in halluin, north tyneside's french twin town!

FLYING INTO TUEBINGEN AIRSPACE



































I’m flying back
into Tuebingen airspace.
I’m ready for Swabian girls of lace.
That’s what makes my pulse race:
the ancient tales of flights of fancy,
the brains of grace,
the gruesome face of an ugly race,
hideous bands under my wheels.

My glowing undercarriage
simply lances
through
all the tempestuous skies
to greet my ascending loves,
the dashing ways,
and blades
of ancient grass,
with blossoming songs
skirting the hurtling runways;
bang of memory,
death of lovely moments
on the tip of my very tongue.

O Mick I miss you so,
O Julia,
O Jack the Lad.
I will recall you all ways,
your twinkling faces
as I stagger along,
in my typical afternoon drunkenness,
past all,
past all the closed bars,
the volcanic ash
of long lost poems
spat out
on dreadful floors
into the ears
of ignorant barmaids
and boring old guys
with nothing to do
but remember.

That won’t happen to me.
Because I run,
across your fallen dust,
exploding,
like a proud volcano,
with the boiling lava
of brand new verse.
Run and run and run
with a fresh joy,
a new life
every day.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

27.11.10

GRONINGEN HORSES


Groningen horses
drag me here,
run wild in my brain,
leap in the imagery of the artist Werkman,
trot through my memories of wet streets,
jump over bars to greet me.
Their hooves clopping
through the shit of war,
they dart in the night along Guldenstraat,
wake in me dreams of the sleeping fields,
the swish of old tales
gone out of our minds.
Their withers are broad as Uncle Loeks’ back,
their haunches like a woman’s arse
I once knew.
What do they think of it all,
the fantasies in the Town Hall,
the pall of depression over Europe?
Stride on my sturdy Groningen beasts,
may your cannon bones,
your barrels,
your flanks,
roar with energy,
zoom across this yawning,
dawning market square
and treat these sobbing days
as if they were not there.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

24.11.10

If you want to know why Europeans belong in a single community, visit any one of Britain's great medieval cathedrals. Walk in the cloisters at Gloucester or pay homage to William of Sens, the Norman architect of Canterbury. Or just tap the stones of this masterpiece – they come from Caen, France.

The modern dream of European political union is entering its darkest days. Eurosceptics say they are vindicated, and are realists – but nothing is less real than the illusion that any European nation, least of all ours, can lay claim to some inward-turned, singular story outside the larger narrative of the continent. For at least 1,000 years, Europe has been building a common culture.

The first European union called itself "Christendom", and in the 11th century created a shared style of art, architecture and philosophy that transcended the borders of infant states. Gothic architecture radiated like a rose window from its source in Paris and fanned out across Europe. What is more real to us today – the doings of medieval British kings, or the elegance of the gothic flying buttresses of York Minster? The petty histories of national politics that Eurosceptics see as our true island story are dull compared with the still-living glories of our European cultural history.

Europe's next cultural revolution, the Renaissance, was even more cosmopolitan. European intellectuals discovered, in the 15th and 16th centuries, a lost common classical Greco-Roman inheritance. The Renaissance spread like wildfire across the entire region. In Westminster Abbey a Florentine sculptor, Pietro Torrigiano, put golden infants on the tomb of Henry VII while, on the far side of Europe, the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus received, as a gift from Florence, a bust of Alexander the Great. A traveller such as Erasmus could ride from Rome to Basel to London and everywhere meet friends who understood his jokes. The painting that sums it all up is Titian's Renaissance masterpiece, The Rape of Europa – a vision of the myth that gave Europe its name, painted in Venice for the king of Spain.

The EU fails to draw on the vibrancy of this common cultural history. The EU's website is called Europa, but instead of Titian's painting its opening screen is a void of blue banality. Why not make more of Europe's cultural unity? Perhaps because the very wine of Bacchus that can enthuse us about our shared identity is dangerous. A celebration of Europe's aesthetic glories should, as a matter of accuracy, also include the Muslim heritage that has interacted with Christian and classical sources in European art since the early middle ages. The fan vaulting of England's Gothic cathedrals, for instance, was influenced by Arab mathematics, as was the Renaissance discovery of perspective.

All this may sound too good to be true; as if, under the bloody, day-to-day violence of Europe's past, beneath the divisions of the Reformation and the rise of nationalism, the continent had all along been building a secret community of culture. And a secret rose that, miracle of miracles, embraces all other cultures too. But that is the historical reality. For every divisive political force in European history there has been a unifying cultural force.

All the European movements in art and architecture that we cherish today, which our museums and collections and concert halls live off, are just that, European movements. Baroque and rococo styles, the neo-classical and romantic revolts, realism in the 19th century and modernism at the birth of the 20th – all bonded artists and intellectuals and publics from Poland to Denmark. The history of Europe's common culture was not even ended by the 19th-century vogue for nationhood, for nationalism itself is a common European idea – its Romantic appetite for landscape art and poetry reproduced from one capital to another just as relentlessly as classical myths were translated across Renaissance Europe. Today, this common culture may be on the brink of its greatest achievement since Copernicus (who lived in central Europe; whose observations were tested by Tycho Brahe in Copenhagen; defended by Galileo in Rome; and proven by Britain's Royal Society) when the Large Hadron Collider at Cern makes a momentous discovery.

Some time soon Europeans who believe in a common identity need to stand up and proclaim the unique richness and openness of our culture – the purality-in-unity that means a baroque church in Sicily does not look identical to one in Bavaria. In the UK, the Art Fund is campaigning to keep a painting by Bruegel in the country. Why? Because it's our heritage. Because we are Europeans.

If Euroscepticism were to start by letting go of all the Bruegels and all the Titians, reducing the National Gallery to a room of 18th-century English portraits, its stupidity might become plain. It is not idealism to believe in Europe; still less is it a bureaucratic abstraction. If you see history in its living colours, you see how deeply European we are and how profound are the roots of that common identity.

groningen & newcastle

Gemeente Groningen
Newcastle upon Tyne

In the far north of England lies Newcastle, which is an old industrial town. It was founded by the Romans and once the outermost northern border with Scotland. Newcastle expanded enormously during the industrial revolution. But in the mid 20th century it went to ruin and in the eighties the mining companies closed down and shipyards were dismantled. Traces of the ship-building industry are still visible when entering the town by boat.

Since the 1980’s the redevelopment of the city has been undertaken vigorously with large budgets made available by the central government in London. A lot of effort was put into demolishing, building and rebuilding on a large scale. The old industrial city has been refurbished into a city focused on retail business. The old city centre with Georgian and Victorian architecture has been fully restored.

The urban area Newcastle-Gateshead is a metropolis with 800.000 inhabitants and is the most important city of northeast England. With two universities (Newcastle University and Northumbria University) Newcastle is a university town. But recently it has been trying to display itself as a shopping and cultural town as well. A few years back Newcastle started working together with Gateshead, the town across the river, to establish itself as a cultural area.

Partnership
The partnership between Groningen and Newcastle was established just after WWII. In 1988 the ties were reconfirmed. In the 1990’s representatives paid several mutual visits and there was lively interchange of artists. Both towns also cooperated with Odense and Bremen in the project Public Policies on Hard Drugs. More recently they have started the PURE cooperation which is focused on regional development and planning. Cause was the 60th anniversary of the partnership Groningen-Newcastle. In September 2008 the alderman for culture and economy traveled to Newcastle, heading a delegation of poets, writers and journalists.

Cultural interchange
In the mid 1990’s lively movements between the literary circuits in Newcastle and Groningen emerged. The driving force behind all this was Keith Armstrong, the unofficial Newcastle poet laureate. Keith Armstrong used to perform once a year in Groningen, giving workshops mostly at the Werkman College and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. From 2000 the Groningen poets laureate (Bart Droog, Ronald Ohlsen and Rense Sinkgrave) paid visits to Newcastle. Ronald Ohlsen and Rense Sinkgrave were received by the Lord Mayor.

In October 2007 the 15th anniversary of the literary partnership was celebrated in Newcastle with a literary evening organized by Keith Armstrong at which poets from Newcastle and the poets laureate from Groningen and Tilburg made appearances.

In September 2008 the Alderman of culture and economy visited Newcastle. He had invited the prime of the Groningen poets to accompany him. The poets performed in Newcastle together with poets and musicians from the British sister city.

While in Newcastle a visit was paid to the Northern Stage, the largest theatre company in northeast England. There are strong ties between the Northern Stage and the Noord Nederlands Toneel from Groningen. Both theatres launched a joint production called On Top of the Town. This play, with young people from both towns, was performed in Groningen (at Noorderzon) and Newcastle. The co-production was directed by Anne Rigby (Newcastle) and Floris van Delft of the NNT.




23.11.10

I DON’T MIX WITH POETS



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

20.11.10

canny old newcastle








NORTH EAST CULTURAL HEADLINES




JOURNAL ARTS REPORTER HONOURED BY BUPA


CITY COUNCIL HEAD OF CULTURE TO JOIN NORTHERN ROCK AS CHIEF EXECUTIVE


LEADING NORTH EAST PLAYWRIGHT TO SCRIPT THE LIFE STORY OF SIR IAN WRIGGLESWORTH


ARTS COUNCIL TO TEAM UP WITH MCDONALDS IN POETRY SPONSORSHIP DEAL


NORTH EAST LITERATURE AGENCY TAKES SPONSORSHIP FROM ‘JUST ABOUT EVERYONE’


BECKS AWARD FOR HARD DRINKING THEATRE DIRECTOR


LEADING FEMINIST POET SPRAYS HER POEMS ON HERD OF COWS


‘I’M REALLY CHUFFED WITH MYSELF’ SAYS AWARD WINNING NOVELIST WHO THINKS SHE’S FROM THE NORTH EAST


‘MY ROOTS ARE DEEP’ SAYS LEADING NEWCASTLE POET WHO LEFT THE CITY AT THE AGE OF TWO


‘NOW I BELONG HERE!’ SAYS NEW ARTS FELLOW LURED TO THE CITY BY £20,000 A YEAR ARTS COUNCIL GRANT


‘MY POEMS WILL ENHANCE GRAINGER TOWN’ SAYS LADY WRITER AS HER ‘NEWCASTLE IS MY FANNY’ SEQUENCE IS CHIPPED INTO THE FACADE OF ST. JOHN’S CHURCH


CITY LEADERS JET OFF TO HOLLYWOOD IN BID TO PUT NEWCASTLE ON MAP


‘MY TART OF A WIFE IS NO ANGEL’ SAYS POSH SCULPTOR


‘I AM A BETTER POET THAN YOU!’ DECLARES TWICE PUBLISHED PETERLEE POET


‘I HAVE BEEN A GEORDIE FOR TEN YEARS NOW, THOUGH I MAY BE A SCOT NEXT YEAR’ SAYS SMILING ARTS FELLOW

FAREWELL, AAD TREE!

















‘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)

19.11.10

hellraiser!

Limerick pub raises a toast to legendary actor and names 'Harris Hellraiser' cocktail in his honour

Miss Limerick Gemma Reilly with the new 'Harris Hellraiser' cocktail at Charlie St George's pub in Parnell Street, Limerick
Miss Limerick Gemma Reilly with the new 'Harris Hellraiser' cocktail at Charlie St George's pub in Parnell Street, Limerick


Published Date:
19 November 2010
IT'S a drink Richard Harris would have been proud to lend his name to. A special cocktail was invented this week by publican Tommy Dore in honour of the legendary Limerick actor at the second annual Richard Harris tribute night.
Mr Dore, manager of Charlie St George pub on Parnell Street – which Harris called his "second home" – put in hours of homework to get it exactly right.

And of course the cocktail includes Harris's favourite tipple, Guinness, along with a dash of Coke, butterscotch liqueur, and vodka.

"It went down fantastic," said organiser Dominic Taylor of the Limerick Writers' Centre. "We're looking forward to it being a world bestseller," he joked.

Mr Dore said getting the mix just right took a lot of trial and error: "It tastes lovely. It's a small bit sweet, but it is nice and it gels well. We gave about 50 cocktails out on the night and no one could guess what was in it.

"Harris was a mad Guinness drinker and every so often he'd have a vodka, so we decided to put vodka in. And he'd have scotch the odd time, but that doesn't go well with vodka," said Mr Dore.

It is planned to serve the drink at weekends, and he believes it will be especially popular with American tourists, who visit the pub given its long association with Harris.

He is also hopeful that actor Russell Crowe, who visited Limerick in the past, may make a return to sample the drink and has sent him a message on Twitter to highlight their creation.

A competition was held on the night to decide upon a name for the cocktail, and the "Harris hellraiser" was selected as the most fitting tribute.

The actor famously liked a drink and once said: "I formed a new group called Alcoholics Unanimous. If you don't feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you."

One wall in the pub, known as the "wall of memories", is completely dedicated to newspaper articles and memorabilia of his life's work.
"In about nine of the 20 photos he has a pint of Guinness in his hand," added Mr Dore.

Those who attended the night were invited to dress up as Harris lookalikes.

The evening including a showing of his iconic film 'This Sporting Life', along with a presentation of his film career and local poets read some of Harris' own poetry. Miss Limerick, Gemma Reilly, launched the drink this Tuesday night.

happy xmas!

14.11.10

dun cow, durham











Michael Stephenson commented on your photo:

"Nice photo of a very good evening of entertainment. You certainly spot a photo opportunity, Keith, beaming is the word!"

10.11.10

russia


























NOTES TOWARDS A POEM ON RUSSIA

1

Red star night.
A badge in the sky.
Banners at the cross-roads.
Oh Mother Russia,
your past bleeding,
we are driving to the future
in a black limousine.

2

Rubbing hearts
in the lift
with travellers,
an atlas in microcosm,
all telling us,
by their accents,
the rooms
that they were born in.
In the Ukraine Hotel,
the bathrooms drip
with voices
and many tongues
sleep,
with the last words of the day
melting away on their lips.

3

Vodka is as warm
as a kiss.
It thrusts a burning finger
down your throat.
After a few,
we embrace.
Our arms surround
the World.
Warm Russian that he is,
Igor kisses me.
After fish and caviar,
the kiss
tastes good!
He signs away his writing:
To Keith,
who is both happy and sad.'

Another night
spurts into a dream.
In and out of trouble,
people will always
dance.

4

TO A FELLOW WRITER IN RUSTAVI

Last night we swopped our shirts.
They didn't fit our bodies too well
but they fitted our mood exactly.

5

WHITE NIGHTS

The huge spread of Leningrad.
Cold courtyard heart.
The winter is hard,
but the nights are turning,
from black to white,
to red and back again.

6

Circus,
and I'm dazzled;
not by the slender sway
of the supple trapezist
but by the spotlight
of a girl's blonde hair.
Shining from the audience,
she smiles
and all Russia smiles at me.
Such tricks in this moment.
I know I'll never see her again.

7

ZAGORSK

All the wailing
behind fine railings.
The seminary domes like suns
catch the sun
and priests, with long nights in their beards,
harmonize brilliantly.
Their voices,
polished gold,
sound out the walls
as a rocket
glints in the sky.

8

RUSTAVI STEELWORKS

It's hellish hot in here.
Beneath the Earth,
these are
men and women
sweating steel,
forging
futures for
their children.
Steel bars for prisons,
steel bars for playgrounds.
It's hellish hot in here.
Like a heart,
burning.

9

Three swaying silhouettes.
Three bureaucrats.
Along the street,
they joggle towards us.
In their cases,
they carry documents with drink
seeping between the lines.
And now they are laughing,
and now the words are laughing.
They are peace documents.
Messages.
Meant for bottles,
meant for oceans.







Keith Armstrong

9.11.10

groningen by frans le roux



RICHARD HARRIS

Limerick pub lines up cocktail of events for Richard Harris tribute night

Ken Harris, nephew of the late actor Richard Harris, at the memory wall in Richard's favourite pub, Charlie St George's, in Limerick last year
Ken Harris, nephew of the late actor Richard Harris, at the memory wall in Richard's favourite pub, Charlie St George's, in Limerick last year


Published Date:
09 November 2010
RICHARD Harris famously liked a drink, and nowhere more so than in his "second home" - Charlie St George's on Parnell Street. Now, the upcoming annual Richard Harris tribute night will name a cocktail in his honour.
A specially invented 'Harris cocktail' will be "sampled for the first time ever anywhere in the world on the night" of Tuesday, November 16.
The actor once famously said: "I formed a new group called Alcoholics-Unanimous. If you don't feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you."

The cocktail will, of course, include Guinness, Harris's staple tipple, but the public are being invited to suggest what the drink should be called and receive a special gift for the best answer.

One suggestion already brought to the bar is the "Harris hellraiser".
"The cocktail is a kind of a novelty event," explained organiser Dominic Taylor. "We wanted to add something intriguing to the mix. Charlie St George was the watering hole for Richard Harris whenever he arrived back in Limerick and manager Tommy Dore is concocting the cocktail as we speak," said Mr Taylor.

Last year saw the launch of the inaugural Richard Harris celebration, and while this year is expected to be "a bit more low-key" it is intended to keep the night alive.

One wall in the pub, known as the "wall of memories" is completely dedicated to newspaper articles and memorabilia of his life's work.
Mr Dore said they are again looking forward to this special night and would encourage those who wish to enter into the spirit of things to dress up as Harris lookalikes.

The evening will commence with a showing of his iconic film 'This Sporting Life' at 5pm, while the Limerick Writers' Centre will present a night of music, poetry and story in a special tribute at 10pm.
Harris was also a keen supporter of Munster rugby, so it is fitting that the Munster versus Australia match in Thomond Park will be screened in the pub that night.

Film expert Declan McLoughlin of Limerick Film Archives will give a presentation of his film career and local poets Mark Whelan and Barney Sheehan will read some of Richard Harris's own poetry.

Author Denis O'Shaughnessy will read stories written about the Limerick hellraiser, who passed away in 2002, and musician Dominic Taylor will perform a special song written to celebrate the life of the twice Oscar nominated actor.

Two more local songwriters Larry de Cleir and Conor Sheehan will complete the line up. After the guest performers, the floor will be opened up to anyone who wishes to read a story, recite a poem or sing a song dedicated to the great man himself.

For further information contact Dominic Taylor at limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com or Tom Dore at tdorecharlies@eircom.net.

5.11.10

Someone out there, please pick up a guitar and howl

Public services are being laid to waste and benefits shorn, but popular culture's voice of dissent remains strangely silent


For those of us who still spend far too much time thinking about what used to be called popular culture, these are fretful times. For more than two years, politics has been in a state of post-crash tumult. Now the government sets about what remains of the social fabric, with order papers waved aloft. And pop culture's response? Noncommittal, heavy on irony, essentially apolitical. By early 2011, we will have reached a litmus-test moment: if even the full arrival of austerity sparks nothing, we'll know we live in truly deadened times.

The signs aren't good. Aside from soap, the idea of mainstream TV and cinema concertedly portraying life at the blunt end now seems as old-fashioned as double-digit inflation. Comedy is no better. The woefully underrated Stewart Lee aside, most halfway successful comedians seem to cleave to a pretty depressing maxim: why meaningfully critique anything when you could be earning good money for boorish silliness on Mock the Week, selling out the O2 arena, and ensuring an autobiography with profanity in the title is doing brisk Christmas business at WH Smith? The same sense of washout prevails in popular fiction – can you imagine a latter-day Alan Sillitoe, Nell Dunn or Shelagh Delaney?

And so it goes: in the midst of public services laid waste, social cleansing via the benefits system, the tripling of the cost of higher education and even worse, the only thing that has so far united any significant number of "creatives" is the cutting of their own subsidies: a sad enough business, but one that creates a response that plays perfectly to the populist stereotype of a cloistered, decadent elite.

And what of pop music? These days, it too often feels like the spirit of dissent is the preserve of past generations, there to be reverentially saluted rather than reinvented. In the United States, one of the most talked-about albums of the season is Wake Up, by singer John Legendand the veteran hip-hop band the Roots – a misplaced attempt to crystallise the condition of modern America via reworkings of consciousness-stirring songs by such icons as Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, which comes off looking like an exercise in sepia-tinted radical chic.

We see a similar thing in the UK. When David Cameron began reminiscing about his love of the Jam, Paul Weller revived his 1979 class-war anthem Eton Rifles on tour ("All that rugby puts hairs on your chest / What chance have you got against a tie and a crest?"), but no one of any note has tried a modern equivalent. If rock history is kept in a glass case, it follows that a once-vibrant tradition of musical protest might be in there with it – so look, don't touch.

That said, four or five years ago musical social comment temporarily came back, and there was a run of stuff about crap jobs, smalltown tedium, and the thin rattle of small change. Thanks chiefly to the Arctic Monkeys, it momentarily defined the fashionable rock aesthetic circa 2006 – and even though the songs that resulted were free of any hardened politics, they were a start. But now, the modern scene looks to be divided between two schools of thought: art-for-art's sake (witness the comically abstract Manchester-based group Everything Everything – "So how will they remember us whole, when we turn into salt?" pleads a frantic song titled Qwerty Finger), and the quest for rustic authenticity that drives the ubiquitous Mumford & Sons – privately educated fans of John Steinbeck, though for his windswept romance rather than his sociopolitical bite. Neither approach holds out the promise of much anger or agitation: one would imagine that either of these artists could soundtrack a Saturday night soiree at Chequers.

So it is that one's thoughts once again turn bleak: when the Berlin wall fell and the gospel of no alternative took hold, maybe the culture was inevitably changed for keeps. And perhaps a good deal of the story lies in pop's own passage into middle-age and the fact that its various incarnations now span not just most of the planet but almost the entire generational range. Ubiquity may have robbed it of its old counter-cultural charge; as it turned out, perhaps what some romantics call the People's Music is better suited to selling mobile phones than soundtracking revolt. The upshot: if you have seditious thoughts, why would you express them via free-market capitalism's favourite art form?

Forty is far too old to be driven mad by any of pop music's supposed failings. But there are truths about our times that most politicians have no wish to tell, and songwriters should be feasting on: 18 millionaires in the cabinet; a war on the poor; the return of a born-to-rule elite, now clad in weekend casualwear and affecting glottal stops, but still reeking of grouse moors and arrogance. This is surreal, mind-boggling stuff. The last time anything comparable happened, my generation's response was couched in the vocabulary of the old left; now, I'd love to hear genuine 21st-century dissent.

To end, then, an appeal to some unknown neurotic outsider, stranded in God-knows-where, and minded to pick up a guitar and howl their outrage: please, prove me wrong.

the jingling geordie

My photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur