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The Month of the Asparagus by Keith Armstrong£8.99 £5.49 inc. UK pp
Release date: July 2011
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Keith Armstrong The Month of the Asparagus: Selected Poems

Hear audio samples of Keith's poetry

The Month of the Asparagus spans some thirty years of writing and heartfelt commitment to the craft of poetry. It is a colourful journey from Armstrong's roots to the far corners of the world. He has a strong feeling for ordinary folk in all their complexity and demonstrates this in his lyrical grasp and desire to sing wherever he may be in his incessant poetic touring. This is the work of a rampant internationalist who never loses that local touch, combined with a sensual flair.

Comments

'Well Keith your beautiful poetry melts my heart, you know that don't you?

Good to see you writing about current politics, don't stop, our country may be depressing politically but the things that are happening are still brimming with meaning and young people today especially need to believe that poetry can be powerful.'

Jen Overett

'In another part of the field, another field, let's face it, sits Keith Armstrong's rakish gaff. His poems are rooted in the Tyneside music hall tradition, closely behind which is the august balladry of the Borders. His is an unashamed bardic stance, actor rather than commentator. Throughout the collection, the authentic lyrical note of this northern poet is struck.'

Michael Standen

'The book is really strong, sensitive and anarchic in equal measure (much like your good self)'

Poet Paul Summers

'I would like to thank you for igniting my interest in poetry. To be honest, from a young age, poetry didn't grab me and I pursued the buzz music gave me, both playing and listening. I have now read the majority of the poems in the two books of yours I have and I am hooked ! It's shameful but I hadn't realised that poetry can grab you like a good book or a piece of music. I can feel the passion and anger and all other emotions you are putting into the poems and I am left in thought afterwards.'

Michael Stephenson

'This volume of poems from Newcastle born Keith Armstrong collects together a selection of his work, culled from the last thirty years, and displays the real depth of his talent. He has an obvious and enduring affection for the region that really comes across in lines which exalt the sights and sounds he sees around him. ‘Marsden Rock’ is a 'Sensational Rock / swimming in light' and 'Birds hurl themselves at the leaping Tyne' in ‘At Anchor’; and he has the kind of voice that you might hear in your own head when you’re caught on the cusp of being drunk; a woozy melancholy that is romantic but also given over to bouts of searing realism. His romanticism also touches on his love for other chroniclers of life including the painter Lowry ('His old boots squeak the floorboards of memory, / his heart is sad and soaked in loneliness') and the great engraver Thomas Bewick. He has travelled extensively (one poem sees him cropping up at Baudelaire’s grave) but his voice – wherever he finds himself – always alternates between the sharp and the sensual.'

RM,The Crack, March 2012

'A traveller with an open mind and without any fear of contact; strange lives, countries and people succumb to his poetic and real incorporation. Keith Armstrong is a bard, too, who has the knack of writing real songs: this poet is someone who in his biography and work inseparably unites wit and long gained knowledge, enthusiasm and great talent, pluck and social commitment...

This is a man who conquers, with his poems and charms, pubs as well as universities. He has always been an instigator and an actor in social and literary projects, an activist without whom the exchanges between the twin towns of Durham and Tübingen would be a much quieter affair. That he is a friend of many friends, able to open the most amazing doors for his guests, can be taken as read. Keith Armstrong’s songs are capable of opening the hearts of listeners and readers.'

'You're going on twinning and twinning, with Groningen again - you're never alone, sitting at your desk, are you? When do you do your amazing writing?'

Uwe Kolbe, Berlin Poet

'Keith Armstrong is one of the north's longstanding finest poets.'

Liz Forster,  North East History

'There are those who tell  the terrible truth in all its loveliness. Keith Armstrong is one of them, a fine poet who refuses to turn his back on the wretched of the Earth. He is one of the best and I hope his voice will be heard more and more widely.'

Adrian Mitchell

'Enjoyed reading the books of poems, cover to cover, on the flights to and from Denmark. Don't know if you'll forgive me if I say that you're a romantic (if an angry romantic!). Poems full of passion (joy or anger or both) and particularly enjoyed the sense of place and community (and the attacks on them!) that many of the poems invoke.

Can we ever recover that sense of belonging and shared values amongst the empire of money-fuelled individualism!! I guess (unfortunately, yet ironically) periods of economic crisis are what bring ordinary people together (but also can lead to the far right getting its dirty hands on things). Let's be optimistic!'

Trevor Wishart

About the Author

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher, Keith Armstrong now resides in the seaside town of Whitley Bay. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices creative writing and community publishing project and has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He was also 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 Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on regional culture in the North East of England. His academic study of Jack Common was published by the University of Sunderland Press in 2009.

His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman, Poetry Review, Dream Catcher, and Other Poetry,  as well as in the collections The Jingling Geordie, Dreaming North, Pains of Class and  Imagined Corners, on cassette, LP & CD, and on radio & TV.  He has performed his poetry on several occasions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at Festivals in Aberdeen, Bradford, Cardiff, Cheltenham (twice at the Festival of Literature - with Liz Lochhead and with 'Sounds North'), Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Greenwich, Lancaster, and throughout the land. 

In his youth, he travelled to Paris to seek out the grave of poet Charles Baudelaire and he has been making cultural pilgrimages abroad ever since. He has toured to Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, Iceland (including readings during the Cod War), Denmark, France, Germany (including readings at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel, Oldenburg, Trier and Tuebingen), Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Cuba, Jamaica and Kenya.

Keith's Publications:

Books
Shakespeare and Company. Erdesdun Publications, Whitley Bay 1975.
Giving Blood. People's Publications, Newcastle 1977.
Pains of Class. Artery Publications, London 1982.
Love Poems. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 1984.
Dreaming North (book & LP). With Graeme Rigby. Portcullis Press, Gateshead Libraries 1986.
The Jingling Geordie: Selected Poems 1970-1990. The Common Trust & Rookbook Publications, Edinburgh 1990.
Poets' Voices. With Cynthia Fuller, Michael Standen & others. Durham County Council & Tuebingen Cultural Office,
Tuebingen 1991.
The Big Meeting: A People's View of the Durham Miners' Gala. TUPS, Newcastle 1994.
The Darkness Seeping: The Chantry Chapel of Prior Rowland Leschman in Hexham Abbey. With introduction by historian
Colin Dallison & illustrations by Kathleen Sisterson. Northern Voices & Crowquill Press, Belfast 1997.
Innocent Blood: the Hexham Riot of 1761. With historian Tom Corfe. Northern Voices & Crowquill Press, Belfast 1997.
Old Dog on the Isle of Woman. Cold Maverick Press Legend Series Number 1, Sunderland 1999.
Our Village. Memories of the Durham Mining Communities. The People's History, Durham 2000.
Bless'd Millennium: The Life & Work of Thomas Spence. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2000.
The Town of Old Hexham. The People's History, Durham 2002.
Imagined Corners. Smokestack Books, Middlesbrough 2004.
Out to Sea. With artist Rolf Wojciechowski. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2004.
Sweet Heart: Erotic Verse. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2006.
Angels Playing Football: Newcastle Poems. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2006.
The Hive of Liberty:The Life & Work of Thomas Spence. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
Hermann Hesse in the Gutter: Tuebingen Poems (1987-2007). With translations by Carolyn Murphey Melchers. Northern Voices,
Whitley Bay 2007.
A Blush in Staindrop Church. Christopher Smart (1722-1771) in Durham. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2008.
Common Words & the Wandering Star: Jack Common (1903-1968). University of Sunderland Press 2009.
From Segedunum to the Spanish City. North Tyneside's heritage in words and pictures. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2010.
Grand Times. The story of the Grand Hotel, Tynemouth. Grand Hotel, Tynemouth 2010.
The Spanish City. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2010.
The Light in the Centurion. The story of Newcastle’s historic bar. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2011.
Splinters: Poems by Keith Armstrong. Hill Salad Books (Breviary Stuff Publications), London 2011.
The Month of the Asparagus: Selected Poems by Keith Armstrong. Ward Wood Publishing, London 2011.
Still the Sea Rolls On. The Hartley Pit Calamity of 1862. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2012.

Magazines:

Including: Revival,True Faith, Toon Talk, Red Pepper, Poetry Review, Iron, Aesthetica, The Poetry Business, The Ranfurly Review, The Penniless Press, Citizen 32, Morning Star, The Recusant, Kenaz, The New Statesman, Other Poetry, Poetry Scotland, True Faith, Dream Catcher, Episteme, Northern Echo, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Sand, North East History, North East Life, The Informer, Northern Review, X magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ash (Oxford University Poetry Society).

Recent anthologies:

Golden Girl. Poems on Newcastle upon Tyne. Credo, Newcastle 2001.
The Seven Deadly Sins. University of Groningen 2002.
Mein Heimliches Auge Erotic Yearbook. Konkursbuch, Tuebingen 2002.
Red Sky At Night: Socialist Poetry. Five Leaves Publications, Nottingham 2003.
War On War. Sub, Breda, 2003.
Paging Doctor Jazz. Shoestring Press, Nottingham 2004.
Microphone On. Poetry from the White House Pub. White House Press, Limerick 2005.
Paint the Sky with Stars. Re-Invention UK, Rayne 2005.
Miracle and Clockwork. Other Poetry, Durham 2005.
North by North East. Iron Press, Cullercoats 2006.
Revival. White House Poetry, Limerick 2006, 2007 & 2009.
Both Sides of Hadrian’s Wall. Selkirk Lapwing Press, Selkirk 2006.
The Wilds. Ek Zuban, Middlesbrough 2007.
Two Rivers Meet. Poetry from the Shannon and the Tyne. Revival Press, Limerick 2008.
Fishing and Folk. Life and Dialect on the North Sea Coast. Northumbria University Press, Newcastle upon Tyne 2008.
Emergency Verse. Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State. Caparison, Brighton 2011.
The Robin Hood Book. Verse Versus Authority. Caparison, Brighton 2012.
Anthology for a River. Danu Press, Limerick 2012.
The Blue Max Review. Rebel Poetry. Fermoy, 2012.

CDs:

Bleeding Sketches. With The Whisky Priests. Whippet Records, Durham 1995.
Out to Sea. With The Ancient Mariners, Jim Mageean, Ann Sessoms. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
Sound City. With Rick Taylor, Bruce Arthur, Pete Challoner, Ian Carr & Bob Fox. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
The Elvis Diaries. With Jim Nunn. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
The Poetry of Percussion. With Bruce Arthur. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2008.

Cassette:

The Pitman Poet of Percy Main:The Life & Times of Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903). North Tyneside People’s Centres 1991.

Further information:

Northern Voices, 93 Woodburn Square, Whitley Lodge, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE26 3JD, England. Tel 0191 2529531. Email: k.armstrong643@btinternet.com

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