by Keith Chandler

Where did they come from,
those hot hot colours –
tangerine, cadmium, jade, cobalt…?
Those tom-tom patterns, stripes and triangles
jiving together, melt-down shapes?
Not from the monochromes of Tunstall,
its pot banks, back to backs,
factories like prison hulks.
Not from the family chain-linked
to poverty, childbearing, hard work.
Not from the fashionable post-war demand
for ‘best’ china, rose sprigged trellises,
all that was ‘posh’, little finger dainty…
Where did it come from, your fierce originality
(and you so shy, unlike your signature
with its cursive Look at me loop the loops)?
Where, given half a chance by A J Wilkinson
to decorate his rejects, his spoilt seconds,
did you find, home girl, such bizarre landscapes?
Clarice, I see you as a child sent out with a pram,
little brother at either hand,
to scavenge for coal among the cinders
and muck of some nearby shord ruck,
flask shaped chimney and oven mouth
flaring behind, finding instead
shards of beauty, sharp edged colour –
copper, emerald, coral, azure –
piecing together the jazz-age modern
out of the smashed up past.


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Keith ChandlerI wrote Clarice because the resilience and creativity of Clarice Cliff’s character is so directly expressed in the best of her pottery; as such she is an outstanding representative of her county. – Keith
Since being selected for Ten English Poets (Carcanet) in 1977, Keith Chandler’s poetry has been published in four collections: Kett’s Rebellion (Carcanet, 1982), A Passing Trade (OHP, 1991), A Different Kind of Smoke (Redbeck, 2001) and The English Civil War Part 2  (Peterloo Poets, 2009).  Having worked for over forty years as a schoolteacher in Liverpool, Norfolk and London, he now lives in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.