Pottery lesson by Vidya Venkat


Art by Suzanne Belair

The first lesson in making pottery

Is: be willing to get your hands dirty.

‘Cos when you place that clay mound

At the centre of the spinning-wheel,

Then wet your palms to wrap them around,

The slurry splatters on you.

And at times, with fingers placed gently,

As you drag and pull inwardly,

The mound comes undone,

Collapsing into a lump.

But, if you get past this stage,

And your mound is still in place,

The task of centering can make

The clay go out of shape.


Three attempts and I give up.

My instructor says,

“No one’s made their perfect pot

As soon as they set out.”

In the potter’s hut, I find on display

A collection of odd pots:

Some cracked outside,

Some charred inside,

No ode-worthy Keatsian urns.

“I sell the good ones,

And keep the odd ones

In honour of the endeavour.”


Vidya has worked as a journalist and a communications consultant in India for over a decade. At present, she is pursuing a doctoral degree in Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London on a full scholarship. Her first book of poems was published by Writer's Workshop, Kolkata in 2006. She has since published poems on her personal blog. One of her recent poems 'Monotony' was featured in Rattle Magazine's open mic under the 'Poets Respond' category.