Sweet Husk

Corrie Williamson

The poems in Sweet Husk move between the living and the dead, seeking connection with and through the past, often via the act of digging and excavation. Here, poetry and archaeology reflect one another: what is buried provides insight into—or, conversely, deepens the mystery of—the ways we engage with the world. The poems are full of matter, of things that matter—artifacts and animals—and build on pattern, series, and echoes, that focus on making/remaking from what is broken, dead, unsung, or left behind. We see how strange, small, and lonely our lives are—dwarfed by our place in a vast landscape of both topography and time. We see how little we can know about ourselves, even with dedicated cataloguing and search. Finally, Sweet Husk concerns itself with our human place in the narrative of the earth.

The Mole, the Sweet Potato,
and the Possibility of Allegory

On the table, a heap of sweet
potatoes, holes chewed
through the skin of some.

Wedge of orange meat
where a mole encountered
it underground: star-flesh

at the end of his nose bumping
straight into the subterranean
mother lode, blindly caressing

the tuber with the branched
mitts of his hands, scenting out
its complicated rough contours,

dusky odor of the roots’
snarl, gnawing into the soft
fibers which he can’t know

are the shade of a harvest moon
low on the horizon. He eats
awed, but when he leads

the other moles here to share
the gift, line of them shuffling
in the tunnel, vein teeming with dark

blood toward a heart, there is only
an empty socket, a room whose walls
are soil, faintly fragrant.


Listen to “Remains,” “The Evolution of Nightmare,” “The Comte de Buffon Composes a Nasty Note to Thomas Jefferson Regarding His Recurring Nightmares of the American Moose,” and “Once, in College, My Father Played Horatio,” read by Corrie Williamson at Smith College on December 7, 2014:

Listen to “Tapetum Lucidum,” read by Corrie Williamson at Perugia Press’s 20th anniversary celebration at Smith College on November 12, 2016:

Cover image: Sweet Husk
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Virginia Literary Award, finalist

“In Sweet Husk, Corrie Williamson plumbs all manner of chthonic, bone-garden tomb/womb/rooms in search of ‘the places that mend us.’ With the gypsy foot of a pilgrim and the palimpsestic, salvaging sensibility of an archaeologist, Williamson is especially attuned to secrets exchanged in our most liminal, littoral, ecotone zones. A husk is an emptied house, but to husk means to reveal something essential. These arresting poems show us the storied ‘worlds within worlds’; each sings beside the grave truths it illuminates.” —Lisa Russ Spaar
“In her splendid debut, Sweet Husk, Corrie Williamson is multiple in her identities: anthropologist of imagination, archeologist of the heart, naturalist observing the world with acuity and praising it with a dense music (‘thick barbs of pink thistle’). No wonder these poems, like ‘your luminous body will / combust automatically.’ With a deft ear and a sharp eye, Williamson probes the mysteries of this world and they sing under her scrutiny.” —Gregory Orr
“The measure of Corrie Williamson’s Sweet Husk is an ‘abacus of bone,’ the poet clearly concerned with ‘the earth’s dark draft’ of what goes ‘early to ash.’ But hers is not a narrow view, and the myriad points of view she employs—of archeologist, anthropologist, and poet—are informed by history, science, and poetry itself. Williamson’s is an amazing accomplishment, and I, among many I suspect, will long lean in to listen to the rare old soul that tells me: ‘I buy Ball jars. I root / cellar, I hoard, I shotgun. I’ll bury in the yard.’” —Claudia Emerson

Author photograph by Kate Thompson

Corrie Williamson

Sweet Husk is Corrie Williamson’s first book, and she is also the author of The River Where You Forgot My Name (Crab Orchard Series/Southern Illinois University Press, 2019) and Your Mother’s Bear Gun (forthcoming from River River Books in 2025). Her poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, AGNI, Boulevard, West Branch, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at The University of Arkansas, Carroll College, and Helena College, and worked as a naturalist guide in Yellowstone National Park. In 2020, she spent seven months as the fellow at the PEN Northwest/Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, living and writing in a remote, off-grid cabin in southwestern Oregon. Visit her at corriewilliamson.space.

  • Watch and listen to Corrie Williamson’s rich conversation with Montana Poet Laureate Mark Gibbons on his “Poets in Montana” series. She reads poems and talks about fierce and strong women and their communities, lighting poetry “fires” in young people and bringing nature into the classroom, the contradictions of America, the wilderness, the woods, wildfires, work, empathy, apples, bears, and more.
  • Missoula Public Library hosted an evening in which Chris La Tray, Montana’s new poet laureate, was joined for a reading and conversation with fellow Montana resident, Perugia poet Corrie Williamson. A recording of the event can be found here.
  • Read Corrie Williamson’s “The Story of My Book” feature on Perugia’s blog.

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