Throwing Desire

Knead it.
Put your body behind it.
Spiral wedging makes a flower.
Keep the air out or it will blow when the heat
comes. Smooth out the petals. Make a cone. Throw it down.
You must center it on the wheel or it will wobble.
Don’t fight it with your hands alone. Brace
your arms on your legs. Apply pressure
until it centers. Learning centering
takes weeks,
months.
Keep it slick. Water
reduces friction. Don’t add too much
or it’ll be weak later. Push it, spinning fast,
and it rises. Your hands tell it what shape to be.
Begin coning. Bring it up. Bring it down. A hill becomes
a mountain, then a hill, then a mountain. Find the center.
Press down to where the bottom of the inner vessel
should be. How wide do you want
your base? Centrifugal force
is your friend
in these first steps. Let
the wheel spin fast in the early
stages. As it gets taller and thinner, reduce
the speed or it will fly. A lot of throwing is being
able to hold still. Hold it where you want it to be, let the spin
do the work. Cupping the form, push the sides up into
a cylinder shape. The further the top lip opens
and spreads, the harder it is to rein it in.
Sometimes you have a shape in mind
before you even start. This
is not necessary. First
thing you learn is
the cylinder.
It is easy to stretch it out
but hard to bring it back in. Avoid
thin spots. How far something can stretch
is called its plasticity. Again, don’t let your mouth
get too wide and thin. Shaping from the outside is a lot
less effective than shaping from within. Reach in.
Your fingers rise inside. The pot grows taller.
The spirals mesmerize. It’s more about
how you apply pressure than being
really strong. You can clean
rough edges with tools.
Some people
like the coarse lines
made by fingers. It looks human.
First it becomes leather hard. Then bone
dry. Depending on where you live, it can happen
overnight. Tool what is leather dry to smooth the surface.
If it’s bone dry, you’re done. You can only fire
or recycle it. When it’s ready to come off
its back, it comes off on its own.
When the water evaporates,
it unsticks. Light the kiln.
Once fired, it’ll last
1000 years, hold
anything.

2013
with thanks to Joe Marler, potter

6 Responses to “Throwing Desire”

  1. eduardo says:

    The most obvious aspect of this particular poem is its shape: “Bring it up. Bring it down.”

    I got misdirected, forgetting the title of the poem, hence it’s “actual” subject. I’m thinking that perhaps the poem would be better served removing the first two lines, and “Smooth out the petals,” in the fourth line. Let the pottery motif come through the reading; showing rather than telling. (Owch! Cliche cut!)

    “A lot of throwing is being able to hold still.” I like this line. Also, as it pertains to desire, I like your closing lines: Once fired, it’ll last/1000 years, hold/anything.

    This is a poem that rewards returnings. I’ll be back soon, and again.

    • wordweed says:

      Great ideas. I’ve taken your advice about changing the first line. Hopefully it’s less obvious now, but I want to keep the flower image.

      “Show, don’t tell” is a rather useful cliche! Not painful at all! It serves me right to be served it, as often as I feed it to my own students. ; )

  2. eduardo says:

    Ooooooow! I like the new opening line! And methinks I see other changes, too. The current version of the poem seems more substantial, heftier. A richer poem. Hmmm… Interestingly, now that clay has been removed from the opening line, the pottery metaphor seems stronger, sturdier.

    It’s like I’m chatting with Desire, while Pottery sits on the next barstool, over. As the conversation continues, I began seeing the similarities the two, eventually making the connection that Pottery is Desire’s mom. It’s because I made the connection, on my own, that it makes such a deep mark on me. Had Desire said, “And this is my mom, Pottery,” it’d be the same information, but with a substantially differing value.

    In my own work, it’s these sort of revisions (yup, “seeing again,” another dreaded cliche) that energize me, bringing me back once more to the naked pages waiting to be dressed.

  3. Fey says:

    You had me at knead.

  4. flymonk says:

    Thank you for these lovely instructions on transmuting through fire, (though of course reading your shaping words only kindles the flames higher) – it is all well in the end, once the pot has its belly made of Space, Desire also Naturally Liberates … (:

    • wordweed says:

      Tamas, fellow Bonpo, thanks for sharing your clear-eyed reading. What you say here– “once the pot has its belly made of Space, Desire also Naturally Liberates”–is the key to this poem. You turned it.

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