BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN NOVEMBER FOR TUEBINGEN/DURHAM 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH

BACK IN TUEBINGEN IN NOVEMBER FOR TUEBINGEN/DURHAM 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH

29.6.13

FREEDOM OF THE STREETS


Freedom of the Streets: the life and work of Jack Common

On Wednesday 23 October, Dr Keith Armstrong will give an account of the life and work of Jack Common. He will dwell on Common’s Heaton upbringing and how it influenced his life and writing. He will read extracts from Common’s autobiographical novels ‘Kiddar’s Luck’ and ‘The Ampersand’ and go on to discuss Jack’s unique friendship with George Orwell.
Jackcommoncover1
Keith will also talk about his own Heaton background and will read his poetry inspired by his roots, including a new piece on Heaton, specially written for this talk. He will be joined by local folk group ‘Kiddar’s Luck’ with whom he has regularly appeared over the years, especially at events to celebrate Jack Common. The group’s extensive repertoire is largely based on traditional Tyneside songs, past and present.
This event will take place at Chillingham Road School as it forms part of the school’s 120th anniversary celebrations. Jack Common was a pupil at the school and 2013 is also the 110th anniversary of his birth.
Keith Armstrong
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Doctor Armstrong now lives in Whitley Bay. He has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise and was founder of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East, Tyneside Poets and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series.
He recently compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners’ Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham, the market town of Hexham and the heritage of North Tyneside. He has been a self employed writer since 1986 and he was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Jack Common. His biography of Jack Common was published by the University of Sunderland Press in 2009.
jack commoncover2
Common Words and the Wandering Star, Dr Armstrong’s book about Jack Common will be available at the talk.
Booking
Booking will open on Wednesday 26 June, initially for Heaton History Group members only. Entry is free for members. Non-members will be able to book from Wednesday 10 July. The non-members’ price is £2. Contact Maria Graham – maria@heatonhistorygroup.org
/ 0191 215 0821 / 07763 985656).

21.6.13

THE CUTHBERT POEMS BY KEITH ARMSTRONG









KEITH ARMSTRONG PERFORMED THE FOLLOWING POEMS IN THE CHURCHES OF BAMBURGH, BEADNELL, NORHAM AND TWEEDMOUTH IN NORTHUMBERLAND:


'I thought the Cuthbert poems were very powerful...Do go on writing and performing like that.' (John Mapplebeck, Bewick Films).


DON’T TRUST SAINTS

I wouldn’t trust Saints,
goody goody two shoe Christians,
they wouldn’t pull me out of the mire
with their do-gooding ways.
I do my praying in the trough,
sweaty trotters grubbing together,
not in anyone’s heaven
but rooting in the soil
for bread.
Don’t get me wrong,
I like a drop of wine
with me nosh,
and I can put the fear of God
in me neighbours
to keep them off me land;
shoot them stone-dead if I have to.
They can go to Hell
for all I care,
whole lot of them: 
Poets and Peasants,
Pipers and Plovers.
I just get on with growing me crops,
no time for preaching Love and Hate.
This Northumbrian sun is all I know,
and the gannets swooping over me.
What I can’t touch or feel or smell or taste
is no good to me:
you can’t eat hymns
but I can catch rabbits.

THE BONES OF PROPHETS

The bones of Prophets
rot in this sacred land.
Cuthbert’s spirit soars with the gulls
over the ancient ground.
North Country hearts
beat with the songs and ballads
of missing centuries;
lyrics in the rough wind,
notes in the margins.
The Saints and the Scholars
scribble down the years -
but who can make sense of it all?
Bind up the volumes
of human endeavour
in this vast universe,
let the dust of our thoughts
feed the insects.
Northumberland is in truth
a bleak land
held together by dreams,
fantasies of us all being Saints:
an open slate,
still wet with the drizzle
of the scribe’s pen.


THIS BURNING BEAM

This burning beam
that did for Aidan,
Bamburgh’s finest
fallen King of Northumbria
in ashes.
Palaces of Pretence,
Gefrin on a summer’s afternoon,
basking by the Glen
where Paulinus
baptised us with pelting sleet,
and where the late Josephine Butler
spread her kind smile
for the welfare of wor women folk,
for the goodness of touch.

Oh Edwin oh Oswald,
oh Ida oh Hussa,
carry my head in your hands.
My mighty warriors of Christ,
is that you in the curlew’s cry?
Is that you in the breeze on my face?

Cuthbert’s a hermit crab,
a ‘Wonder-worker of England’,
and I am an empty shell of a man,
talking to birds
because they make more sense of my life.

Listen to me Bede, I’m the Universal Soldier,
I have rubbed ointment
on Cuthbert’s sore knee,
ridden with him across the sheep-snow hills,
and bathed his suppurating ulcer
in red wine.
Light a torch for me
for I am no Saint.
Yet I speak
the Gospel Truth:

Grant to me, Lord Christ, for this pilgrim journey through life,
Your ready hand to guide me, your light to go before me,
Your protection to guard me from evil,
Your peace to rest within me, your love to sustain me,
That through all the joys and sorrows that meet me
I may know the promise of your abiding strength,
Until I reach my final homecoming with you forever.

commissioned by berwick museum 2007

5.6.13

AT ANCHOR


































Birds hurl themselves at the leaping Tyne;
I catch them through the evening window.
It is cold for the time. 
My throat is stuffy with poems left unsaid.
Weary troubadour I am, 
swimming with visions of ancient European tours.
Now I have landed, with my seagull wings, in Haydon Bridge
to honour a famous son.
I am lodged in the Anchor Hotel,
another lonely night of a whirlwind life:
lorries howl around me
and I can hear a village trembling
in the blinding dark.
Restlessly at anchor,
I cannot sleep for the ghost of John Martin
lighting up my room
with dynamic visions
and the thunderous clatter of his wild dreams.
Stuck in the rut of my own poetry,
I force myself to sleep,
bobbing by the river,
under the fantastic sky.
The community lights shine on my imagination,
and the screams of swifts
make a life worthwhile.



Keith Armstrong,
Haydon Bridge,
Northumberland.




John Martin (1789-1854). Historical Painter. Born Haydon Bridge, Northumberland 1789. Died Isle of Man 1854.

4.6.13

PRAGUE



My pilgrims of tourism,
you scrawl your sticky feet over sacred earth,
grown weary 
in your empty indolence.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

2.6.13

WELCOME TO THE NORTH EAST!


the jingling geordie

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