Word Clay

Kate Innes | The Poetry of Science
Muck and Magic – for the Potters of Stoke
Clay is some kind of living thing –
a beast that’s hard to gauge.
It cries out to be changed and formed –
but fights at every stage.

It deceives us with its softness
and undoes our best attempts.
The next pot will be your best pot -
but today’s must pay the rent.

In touching clay we touch the past -
the skills, the pride, the ground
of men and women in black and white
who made Stoke strong and sound.

The mix must shine just like an eye -
a glass one - they would say.
They passed on lots of little tricks
we say ourselves today.

The firing phase is hazardous -
the ware can break apart.
If fire wins out - then all is lost -
if man – we call it art.

For clay has chemical innocence -
and you have to go along
with all its idiosyncrasies
so the pot can sing its song.

Kate Innes, October 2015

Kate produced this community poem as a response to her weekend national WriteScience residency as part of Fun Palaces (3rd & 4th October). She worked with the Ceramic City Stories team in Stoke's historic Minton Library and its unique tiled basement.
Kate worked so hard through the two days and did a wonderful job encouraging visitors to really look and interact with the hundreds of 1870s literary themed tiles to be found on the walls. She invited people to match quotes and words with the various scenes depicted including Tennyson's Idyll of the King (Arthurian legends), Shakespeare plays, The Bible and fairy tales.
Kate also invited the team and visitors to contribute thoughts and words about clay. She constructed the community poem above using a combination of direct quotes and inspiration from shared comments about 'clay'. She specifically identified Steve (Shaw) and Phil (Rowley) as being particularly influential.

Here's some more information about Kate, Fun Palaces & her WriteScience residency with Ceramic City Stories at Minton Library, Stoke.
We were extremely proud to be selected as one of the six UK Fun Palaces that hosted the winners of the WriteScience initiative. We were very excited to welcome Kate Innes whose poem 'Walking the Hills' was selected by a prestigious judging panel for this national accolade.
Kate became the Ceramic City Stories | Fun Palace Poet-in-Residence during the weekend of 3rd & 4th October. She spent time in Stoke's historic Minton Library and its unique tiled basement on both days. She was on hand to read, chat about and share her evocative poem - 'Walking the Hills' - and she also began to create new work over the weekend inspired by the surroundings and conversations that played out.
It's been fascinating to begin to uncover and explore interesting links between Shropshire based Kate, her poetry and The Potteries. We shared thoughts about her writing, The Minton Library and how she might want to work with us during Fun Palaces. She was inspired by some of the literary themes portrayed in the hundreds of late 19th century Minton tiles that cover the walls of this amazing space. Kate had the opportunity to study the tiles up close and work with visitors on unpacking some of the old - and perhaps new - stories that flow from these once forgotten ceramic gems… we've all loved working with Kate!
Walking the Hills

“I distinctly recollect the desire I had
of being able to know something about every pebble
in front of the hall door." - Charles Darwin
On this illusion of solidity
continents have crunched their bones,
inner earth has spilt its heat.
The scar is this graveled spine of hills,
sweetly covered in mossy, heathered coats.
The Lawley rises to a ridge,
that points to future sky.
Caradoc follows, glancing back.
From here we are travelling north
by a fingernail’s width each year,
the millennia trailing after us,
scattering rocks across the world.
The ground beneath our feet
has flowed and frozen and thawed
into lichen puffs and flowered grass.
We continue on our path,
finding the pebbles, gazing at their souls,
as if they were the events of our lives,
as if they were maps for us to follow.
They tell us deserts have turned to stone,
been built and fallen into ruin.
Bogs have sucked and squeezed to coal.
Rivers have redrawn the world
sending out their ribbons of mud,
their rippled sediment.
Everywhere trace prints
and carapace remain -
animate elements
pressed in layered pages.
We walk this earth
from which we came,
every pebble known
and unknown,
we walk and return -
becoming dust,
making stone.

*You can download a copy of Kate Innes 'Walking the Hills' here:

Twitter: @kateinnes2
More project background (from Fun Palaces):
Fun Palaces WriteScience: Fun Palaces are about arts and sciences, community and culture; we believe in everyone an artist, everyone a scientist. We are partnering with literary and performance organisations, and supporting BBC Get Creative, with a different kind of writing competition, one that’s about sharing and engaging, bringing arts and sciences together to create, and taking that work back to our local communities. We have no categories, all ages of writers, scientists and mixes of both very welcome.
Our Panel:Jonathan Davidson (poet, playwright, Chief Executive Writing West Midlands), Stella Duffy (writer & Co-Director Fun Palaces), Jen Hamilton-Emery (publisher, Salt Publishing), Sophie Lambert (literary agent, Conville & Walsh), Degna Stone (poet)
What We’ll Also Do: Our brilliant Fun Palaces friend and ally Jen Toksvig had a great idea to help us make this whole event even more inclusive and engaging, so we’re also going to come up with a whole load of Fun-Palaces-style offers for extra things you can do with your work, around the Fun Palaces weekend and beyond, whether you are in the longlist of 25 or the final group of 6 or not – we’ll share this closer to the time. #EveryoneAPoet
*Please click on the image below for further event details