Visiting Poets

Corrie Williamson

Corrie Williamson
Of Corrie Williamson, Gregory Orr writes, “[she] is multiple in her identities: anthropologist of imagination, archaeologist of the heart, naturalist observing the world with acuity and praising it with a dense music.” Williamson writes with the sparkling ingenuity of a conservationist—one for whom there is never reason for waste: “I salvage and in lieu//of prayer I compost. I buy Ball jars. I root/cellar, I hoard, I shotgun. I’ll bury in the yard.” She deftly uses this impulse to bind together seemingly disparate elements throughout Sweet Husk (2014); in her poem “The Evolution of Nightmare,” the “most ancient known/word for man” fits remarkably—and yet, inevitably—next to a rack of copper Revere Ware inside a farmhouse kitchen. As Claudia Emerson wrote, “[Williamson’s] is not a narrow view, and the myriad points of view she employs…are informed by history, science, and poetry itself.”

Select Poems

Did Sylvia tell the bees
when Otto passed,
as custom demands,
and as he surely would
have wanted? Perhaps
she sought them out
one by one in the fields
and garden, quivering
over thick barbs of
pink thistle or slipping
from a poppy’s mouth.
Having abandoned
the veil and moon suit
perhaps she came
smokeless at dusk,
all but a few zealous
workers tucked in the hive,
and she told them, voice
soft with the messenger’s
humility, I ordered this,
clean wood box, her hair
falling over the slender
crack of the hive’s
entrance, the last bees
crossing gently through it,
leaving yellow flares
of pollen there, as some
untamed sweetness
welled in her who knew
all along the Lord
was a beekeeper.

From SWEET HUSK (Perugia Press, 2014)

There is a payphone in the desert
from which I dial my mother. I do not say
this loneliness is an ocean, that it is miles
of dust before my words even cross a road
bearing a name. Mother, I say, I climb
the mesas, and on clear days can see
San Juan peaks to the north like a white
fish’s spine. Mother, in the living heat
I sketch maps of absence. Today,
descending a rock shoot in the run-off’s
worn path, what I believed were yucca needles 
rose to my boot––a porcupine the size
of a dog, who showed me his arrowed teeth
and scaled the cliff. Mother, the elk
wear tracking collars. I do not
say, Mother, I am living in the valley
of the dead. Mother, at night the air-
conditioner shudders to a halt, the heater
stirs the blinds, clicking against window
glass. I swear he’s there, coyote, the trickster,
the one who throws his voice between
canyon walls, ears laid back, his skittering
laugh: What do you want with us? What
could you possibly want?

From SWEET HUSK (Perugia Press, 2014)

My head’s a dry spell, a paper lantern
patched with iron. The four a.m. train

       bullies through town, and here’s
what’s unforgivable: the mystery of its freight,

That I choose not to know what passes through
this place, pulling north, south, steaming

in the cold night like the breath of animals
who don’t look up to watch it pass.

       Last spring, coming down
out of the Chuskas to the Arizona border,

just short of where pine-needle floor
       gives way to red dust: a mountain lake
frozen solid, men in lawn chairs on its gleaming

surface beside bucket fires:
ice-fishing in the desert sun.

       Wearing the pain now like second skin,
a coat of scales, I ache

after that cold core through gray light: division
as frozen, ragged tunnel through which to slip. How

do we reach them, the places that mend us?

The wind gathers, leaves leaning
shadows over the windowpane. If

it would rain. I think, all pressure would ease,
pain edging into sleep, cold raindrops meeting

the soil of my fall garden, wetting the spinach
palms, the silver trembling lettuce, the flowers

of the sugar snaps, white fisted and starry with frost.

From SWEET HUSK (Perugia Press, 2014)

Poetry Center Reading

Fall 2016