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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July 13 is the birthday of the Elizabethan magus John Dee.

The John Dee Society organised a walk/talk celebration meeting at St Mary the Virgin in Mortlake. It was called a John Dee Tea.

Dee was a magnet for people in all the human disclipines, from mariners to scientists to mathematicians to poets. Spenser and Sidney visited his Mortlake home to feast on his library. He was the model for Faustus and Prospero.

Though there is no record of it, he may have met Shakespeare.

He was the polymath genius of his day, an Einstein-like figure, the man who could explain everything.

A walk to his Mortlake demesne last year was quite mind-blowing. The Church, the riverside site, the council block named after him. It became a poem:

The envisioner of ‘the British Impire’, I should not feel an attraction to him. But I do nonetheless.

Photo of Dee’s crystal ball at the British Museum is by Julie Goldsmith

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STRIKE! magazine is one of the more exciting new magazines in the country.

For sheer commitment, raw edge, and attitude, it stands out from the vast crowd. No surprises that since its launch in late 2012 it has gone from strength to strength, most recently upping the ante from seasonal to bi-monthly.

When everyone else on the left seems to be abandoning printed matter for the sake of ‘economy drive’, STRIKE! has gone against the grain and shown that a paid-for can flourish.


It combines philosophy, art, poetry, politics in a unique way but also foments ‘community’.
Contributors have included Nina Power, David Graeber, Heathcote Williams and Ralph Steadman.

Where there are so few…  erm… organs willing to look at political/radical/satirical/revolutionary poetry, STRIKE! won’t consider anything else. I’ve featured regularly in its pages with a modern adaption of Baudelaire’s ‘Abel and Cain’, a celebration of the Student Riots. a ‘strained elegy’ for Thatcher, as well as a Bourgeois Trilogy-in-progress.

The current edition features a new poem ‘THE BOURGEOIS (after Dostoyevsky in London)’ and is available in the ICA, Housmans, Foyles, Freedom, and online.


Here is the poetry section:


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Rimbaud and Verlaine enjoyed having their shoes shined in London. Their huge walks in the city probably necessitated the little luxury.

Verlaine’s lively and highly informative cartoon depicts them on Cannon Street at 10am, with the dome of St Pauls in the background.

Clearly, they are enjoying their grooming.

Bootblacks were a feature of London life in the Victorian period. Many were unlicensed and operated illegally like ‘squeegee merchants'; but the boys in Verlaine’s drawing are uniformed and thus probably card-carrying members of one of the Boot-black Brigades. They were not subject to police interference.

The boy in the photograph below had been licensed but didn’t like the organised trade and so had resumed his work as an independent bootblack. If police spotted him they would literally kick his box from under the feet of customers.


This article describes bootblacking in 1877, five years after Rimbaud and Verlaine’s first sojourn in London:

If you look closely at the drawing you can the verses of a poem on the other side, underneath the phrase ‘Romances sans paroles’ which would later be the title of Verlaine’s finest – and most Londonist – book. Verlaine was writing to his friend Edmund Lepelletier on 8 Septemeber 1872, so this is a very early adventure. Verlaine describes the city as ‘this nest of ducks called London.’ Rimbaud has already invested in a top hat.

Thanks to Catherine for the link. Check out her terrific Rimbaud website:

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This is an important and stylish plaque and I wish I’d been there to see Berkoff unveil it.


There is also a bust of Poe.


You can see it being unveiled here:

When instructing people orally how to find this blog, I tell them “It’s topography with a Poe in front of it!”

So this post is overdue. Like some of the authors who have featured in these pages – Joyce is another – Poe is more famous for his prose, but is also a poet. That they are also poets makes their prose all the better.

Poe, like Joyce, is a flabbergasting genius.

Photos: Julie Goldsmith

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UPRISING was my favourite reading of 2014 so far and will be hard to top. Here are the details:

Radical poetry in Liverpool
at News from Nowhere News From Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop

Monday, March 31st, 7pm start

CHRIS McCABE – One of the UK’s most innovative poets and the author of THE HUTTON INQUIRY.

NIALL McDEVITT – Launching PORTERLOO: ‘A brilliant explosive book…the best politically weaponised poetry ever’. (Jeremy Reed).

SARAH CREWE – Liverpool poet, author of SEA WITCH and co-editor of CATECHISM: POEMS FOR PUSSY RIOT.

& JAMES BYRNE – Editor of THE WOLF Magazine, launching SOAPBOXES: a pamphlet of political satire.


News from Nowhere: Radical & Community Bookshop, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, 0151 708 7270

Having lived in Hammersmith for many years, I had become a Morris fan by osmosis, but only got round to reading News from Nowhere just before the excursion to Liverpool. (I had to read the book before reading in the bookshop. And would recommend it to anyone as a visionary classic). The bust of Wlliam Morris was prominently displayed for the occasion, sardonically eyeing up the water tumblers.


The readers Chris McCabe, James Byrne, Sarah Crewe and co-host Sandeep Parmar – absent from the photo – are in my honest opinion poets of immense promise. Don’t ‘watch out for them’, read them!


The event was thoughtfully named after a great poem, ‘Uprising’ by Robert Duncan, a work of art that has influenced many.

And Liverpool… mystical tent… Paddy’s Wigwam (revisited)…. is the Jungian city par excellence.


Niall McDevitt

Photos: Julie Goldsmith

Logo: Nick Byrne

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