A special tribute from Keith Armstrong, Poet


This special tribute was written by Keith Armstrong, a long-time friend and fellow poet, before William's death. It is followed by a poem entitled 'There are those who sing', written later...




I've been involved, one way or another, with 'poetry' since c1970.


I must have organised over 1000 poetry readings and read myself at around the same number of public events.


That means I have suffered an awful lot.


Most poets are weak performers. As Michael Mould of Bruvvers Theatre Company once said: 'Well, at least Keith Armstrong moves about a bit!'


More often than not, though, poetry readings are an exercise in the failure to communicate.


But there are exceptions - one of whom is William Martin.


I like my poetry to sing, to rise up from the mundane, touch the spirit and reach the very heavens. Bill's poetry does that.


Rooted in the soil and the grime of the coalfield, it celebrates that worthy culture but also builds a cathedral of soaring words.


Bill has long been an inspiration to me. I value his wisdom and his craft and learn from it. He is a good friend and, I sincerley believe, a good man.


I have shared drinks with him throughout the north east - and even bumped into him on holiday in Bulgaria! Fate meant our souls to meet.


We are 'men you don't meet everyday'. We are poets and singers too who seek to move an audience with our soulful craft, who desire a poetry reading to live long in the memory. Men who reach for the very stars.


William Martin, I am of your planet. I am in your choir. With all my heart, I salute you.


Keith Armstrong

Whitley Bay. July 3rd 2009.




(for William Martin, 1925-2010)

There are those who sing,
with the breath of thrushes;
who craft songs
from out of their deep roots,
whose verse roars
with the sea
and the sky
and the pain of the land.
In the cathedral
of their hearts,
their tunes rise up
and fill the heavens
with flocks of words.
They are few
and far between,
these fliers
of lyrics.
Above plodders
and traipsers
of verse,
they reach for real stars,
pluck at galaxies
and dreams
of word symphonies,
that soar for centuries.

William, my friend,
you were 
one of these,
a fatherer of folk hymns,
a Durham choirman,
singing quarryman,
carving out poems 
with his pick and soul.

On a piano keyboard
of a dictionary,
you composed
a music festival 
of passionate poetry.

Keith Armstrong