From Sarsens to Clay


Image: copyright Roger Kidd, used under a Creative Commons licence.

A few weeks ago I went to a poetry workshop in Avebury, led by Jo Bell and Martin Malone. After a bracing walk around the stones, which we used as a starting point for our imagination, we began to consider our own personal archaeologies. As I come from Stoke on Trent, I took the derelict “pot banks” and their surrounding landscape as a theme, plus a line from a poem by Adam Thorpe, and wrote this:


Industrial Archaeology

It’s artificial and there’s nothing at the core
                              Adam Thorpe; ‘Silbury Hill’

It’s artificial and there’s nothing at the core
but clay and pebbles; this ditch and bank
cut for a waterway, that, for a motorway.
This sheer cliff a windowed warehouse
where plates nest on spacers made of fireclay
and pots hunker down in saggared cists.
Here a toilet-bowl midden cast out by Doulton
there, winding gear, as pithead megaliths.
Rounded cairns barrow within the landscape,
squat, strangely bottle-shaped and hollow
as a hermit’s cell. They bear traces of old fires,
their use no longer understood, but probably
of ritual significance. Today, all we remember is;
they’re artificial and there’s nothing at the core.

5 thoughts on “From Sarsens to Clay

  1. Lovely poem Judi. I particularly like the references to your inspiration – the ‘pithead megaliths’ and the ‘ritual significance.’


    • Ian House said to me once when i used the word in a long-ago poem, that there seemed to be too much hunkering, going on in the poetry world right now. Since then its usage has actually increased. Lovely piece, with lots of interesting and fresh images, but the hunkering pots don’t work for y.t.


      • Oh – is it going on the “banned list” along with “shards” and “miasma” and all those other words poets shouldn’t use? I hadn’t particularly noticed it as a problem but, Wendy, your insights are always very good (as they were at the Stanza meeting last night) so I will have to ponder some alternatives! Thanks!


    • Thanks – of course Jo was the inspiration for “ritual significance” which is apparently what archaeologists say about an object when they don’t know what it was for…


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