Originally posted on POETOPOGRAPHY:



Scotland you belong to your painted people, a people that paints itself, a people
that paints its own fates. The pictures on the skin of the ancient arms and torso
of Scotland are pictures of a naked unimaginable wildness coming before
and standing before an unimaginative bureaucracy in a suit.

They picture your interglacial landings and Ice Age axes, your boats of wood and bone, your drystone roundhouses and wheelhouses, your chambered cairns for the dead.

They picture your blue-coloured warriors overspilling the giant walls of Antoninus
and Hadrian – a two-hurdle sprint – to take on Empire.

They picture your Alexanders, Constantines, Duncans, kings that fought against
a succession of overlords who sought to tax, burn, rape and kill you into submission,
an abjectivity without end.

Always from below there have been onslaughts and outrages, incursions and invasions; always from below there have been subterfuges…

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Thomas Chatterton Brooke St 2014-08-04

Chatterton died on August 24 1770 on Brooke Street, Holborn,  and was buried in a paupers graveyard in nearby Shoe Lane. The graveyard and his grave are lost.

Photo: Valli Rao


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THE BRAVEHEART YES CABARET is a commemorative gathering on the site of William Wallace’s execution on August 23, 1305, to allow Londoners to show their support for Scottish Independence with a month to go before the vote.

It is an outdoor event and open forum, but there is no platform for nay-sayers. This will be a magical antidote to all the south-of-the-border unionism we’ve been over-exposed to in recent times.

Poetry, music, oratory, history etc. Scottish artists are especially welcome.

The William Wallace Monument, Bartholomews Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1 (Farringdon tube). Free.


Image: Andy Hillhouse courtesy of The William Wallace Society

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sun hits the wall
sun hits the wall at the eleventh hour
you’ve been here 
but once before

not the prettiest walls
but they’ve protected the real
for a hundred years, red-brown
as blood and earth

the voice of the Asian
Down’s Syndrome boy
pure as a horn

you’re in the east now, my brother,
the west has seen its final sunset,
the city is baked
from frozen


Poetry: Niall McDevitt


Photography: Max Reeves


(N.B. This poem was posted on August 12, William Blake’s death day)


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Hughes Larkin

I found a poetopographical monument I’d not seen before as I passed through Queen Square Gardens yesterday. This one made me wince, and think. Queen Square is the famous former address of Faber and Faber, formerly poetry-edited by T.S. Eliot at Russell Square, now based at Bloomsbury House, Great Russell Street.

The ‘memorial planter’ was erected to celebrate the Silver Jubilee in 1977, and because it was in the proximity of the publisher, someone had the mawkish idea of including lyrical tributes from the two outstanding Faber poets of the era, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes. The Larkin is semi-visible in the above photograph. It is attributed to ‘Larkin’. The full quatrain reads:

In times when nothing stood
But worsened or grew strange
There was one constant good:
She did not change

The Hughes quatrain is also attributed merely to ‘Hughes’ and reads as follows:

A soul is a wheel
A nation’s a soul
With a crown for a hub
To keep it whole

It seems as if the verses were specially commissioned. If they are quoted from other works, I’m glad to say I haven’t read them. The sentiments are unpalatable. The Larkin is something you regularly hear from monarchists i.e. that through the bloody chaos of modern English history, Elizabeth II is the fixed star, a reassuring portent, a symbol of constancy. The Hughes is more cod-mystical, more redolent of the vomitarium. Hard to believe ‘The Incredible Hulk’ could have come up with it.

The discovery of this embarrassing, overweening plot confirmed my suspicion – is indeed public evidence – that Faber and Faber is a monarchist press, one which serves to uphold the ‘courtly tradition’ of English poetry, a brilliant tradition which includes poets as diverse as Chaucer, Skelton, Shakespeare, Rochester, not to mention the ‘individual talent’ of the arch-royalist T.S. Eliot, prodigal son of the New Englanders returned home.

True, Faber has published Northern Irish poets that would count themselves Republicans, but its choice of English poets seems calculated as to how they might respond to a royal invitation. Even the young faux-communist Auden was more than happy to shake hands with King George V. The very teleology of being a Faber poet presupposes sumptuous occasions and studied protocols. Funeral orations at Westminster Abbey…

In 1977, the be-knighted royalist John Betjemen was presiding Poet Laureate, but he was published by John Murray, not Faber, which is presumably why he was disregarded for the Queen Square job. Strange, though, as you’d think that providing monarchical ditties on demand was the whole point of being Poet Laureate. Why should he have to suffer rivals? Strange also that the two poets featured here were both offered the post when Betjemen died in 1984. Were they also rivals for the laureateship as they certainly were for laurels? Tellingly, when Larkin sent his royal quatrain to Charles Monteith at Faber, he also included a parody of Ted Hughes’, joking that he was sure Ted would do better:

The sky split apart in malice
Stars rattled like pans on a shelf
Crow shat on Buckingham Palace
God pissed himself…

Larkin turned the laureateship down, not because he was a Republican but because he only had a year to live and was not given to public appearances. Hughes was second choice. He accepted it. Fishing in the Queen’s private grounds, he probably felt safe from a latter-day Orphic dismemberment by feminist hordes. His various pronouncements on royalism and monarchy, as well as his awful occasional poems, are the worst of Hughes, but this outlook imbues his oeuvre. He’d always been ripe for royal co-option.

21st century poets writing in England need to become more aware of this division, not so much between mainstream and avant-garde but poets of the courtly tradition and those who reject it. We need to undermine a culture in which people just ‘go along with it’. Tony Harrison is a mainstream poet but a firm Republican and deserves to be properly understood as such. Check out his witty poem ‘Untitled’ which he wrote as a reprimand to his friend, the director Richard Eyre, who had accepted a knighthood. It takes attitude to come out as a Republican, and many poets are still in the closet. Of the 300 poets that attended Buckingham Palace late last year, quite a few claimed to be Republicans, but they were still willing to make obeisance to the Windsors.

The courtly tradition needs to be semtexed into a very red-faced and distant past, and this is the century that can manage it.’re-selling-postcards-of-the-handshake/

Niall McDevitt

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what has happened to
that I can sit with coffee
in the smokes of the streetcars
in the smokes of Greek cigarettes
not my own
and see a mother
as if through crystal
completely made of whiteness
completely made of light
shining from glass tables
as if closer than the sun
orangely from her ears and shoulders
passed from one city
one country
to another
costume-changing to angel
in the egg-yolk heat
of an English summer
even amid rasping motorbikes
or under
rutting helicopters
and not just anyone
but the mother I’m with?

ever shone a sun
on my poor son
and our unwritten story


Niall McDevitt


(This is a revised version of a poem which is in the current edition of Scintilla. Scintilla is a journal inspired by the work and example of Henry Vaughan.)


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Roy Bhaskar must be one of the most influential philosophers of today. His work attracts many followers from all walks of life, many of them professional educators.

He has pioneered his own philosophy of Critical Realism, which developed into a second philosophy called Dialectical Critical Realism, and a third philosophy called Metareality.

I was lucky enough to attend a conference devoted to his work at the ICCR – International Centre for Critical Realism. He is a very fine communicator of his ideas, a compelling speaker, who is also a benevolent presence. He is almost like an Indian guru who has infiltrated the Western philosophical tradition, but one with a highly rigorous knowledge of that tradition. His original philosophy is also a critique of philosophy e.g. a much needed critique of the Cartesian ‘Cogito’ for its prioritisation of ego, intellection, masculinity, and even the French leisured classes.

Metareality offers a philosophical angle on the mystical faculty. It is an absorbing read and it was a real bonus to complement the book with live sessions and symposiums. I may be the first Irish poet to take Metareality on board.

Here is a sample from his book Reflections on Metareality: Transcendence, Emancipation and Everyday Life.

“You can see how the most horrible situations actually presuppose love or creativity. And then you can ask, can we do this without the normatively negative? Can we do without exploitation, hatred, violence? The answer is, yes we can. We can survive in a world without capitalism. I will put it in the very simple terms of just one opposition. We could survive without capitalism, capitalism could not survive without us. That is the basic asymmetry, but who dominates? Is it capitalism or is it us? Capitalism dominates. Does hatred or love dominate? Obviously hatred, but hatred could not survive without love, though love would flourish without hatred.”

Another of Bhaskar’s concepts is demireality and the demireal, which is the false, the deluded, the hostile, the vicious, a world of half-reality.

More anon.


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