Clayscape: Three Poets

In April The Clearing’s Luke Thompson and Isabel Galleymore took a group of Falmouth University students to Wheal Martyn, the China Clay Park and Museum on the edge of a working clay pit in the St Austell area of Cornwall. Students were introduced to the rural-industrial history of this unique landscape, and to the writers who have responded to it, including Jack Clemo. We wandered down to the flooded pit of Lansalson, with its turquoise waters, kaolin-white beaches and rhododendron woodland, then up through the museum, clay dry, waterwheels, tanks and on to the viewing platform, which looks down into the working pit of Wheal Martyn. This contested landscape of awkward beauty invited and inspired some exciting creative responses, which we are very pleased to present.


Archie Wilson captures the movement of the day, the walk we took to the platform from the flooded pit. From here, Lucy Linford continues the narrative, paralleling the blasted pit with hail showers we experienced. Lastly, Jess Hawes considers the human history of the works in her ‘Thick Skin’, responding to the heavy workers’ clay boots used as prompts in the workshop.


Image Luke Thompson
Image Luke Thompson


by Archie Wilson


Plateau bound, white hum,
drum machine spray,
levelling the collapsed cloud.
Wash it down, on its back,
tin scars, raw pigment,
flesh clay washed white.

Begin at the sky pool, milk drunk
shores washed with tree and shrub.
Brambles, butcher the nature work –
savaged, re-ravaged –

Up the wheel cycle, water spray running
on running water churning,
buttered smooth circle, streaking viaduct,
hanging stream to upturned cross,
damp breathing,
sunk and swollen.

In, to the Dry
tunnelled vision, breeze stunted,
air chill, dust grounded, roof rusted.
On, labyrinth guttering, gargle, clotted stream.
Plinth structures passing –
storehouse and store holes,
stored goods, jutting up rocks,
cut through rock, glittering passage.

To plateau, horse-drawn throat,
cough, into dusted cloud,
blue holes lighting the pit.


Image Luke Thompson



by Lucy Linford

Walkers walk across cracked clay pots,
scraping their boots,

While a river bed,
untouched by our ungentle hands,
flows on, unmanned,

And the clouds spit back at us
with stone we cannot take.

Clouded waters make ghostly shapes, and
blood seeps from the sunken slate.


Image Luke Thompson



a clay miner’s boot
by Jess Hawes


tacks splice leather flesh; canyons wind in woody underfoot. map of stone. horseshoe heels print pound punch their weighted treads. clop clomp. hide tongue peels, splits, drawn, stooping organ. copper studs gut deep. staple synthesis. held up, held heavy. alabaster ankles protrude: mineral fortitude. a milk-sweat white-wash.


clay callouses burn; dry china








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