Heather Derr-Smith (Poetry) |West De Moines, IA
Press & Reviews
“In Derr-Smith’s Tongue Screw, each poem ‘lifts its rattle to astonish us,’ each line both an anatomy and ecology of our own darkness. Derr-Smith’s poems are imagistically rich and unflinchingly honest as they unfold, one after the other, the thin and permeable boundaries between war and desire, violence and beauty, politics and the inexplicable motion of experience.”
—Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography
“In rivetingly ecstatic and stunningly musical lines, Heather Derr-Smith composes paeans that praise and bless the yearning blood-thrum and finite vulnerability of human embodiment. Tongue Screw evokes the metal torture device used to prevent Mennonite martyrs from testifying as they were burned alive, and in these incandescent poems, the abjections and beatitudes of the flesh are tenderly rendered as ravishingly spiritual. Equal parts hymn ringing over the open plains in four-part harmony, and visceral soul-cry of punk rock, the poems in Tongue Screw are fiercely glorious in their evocation of troubled memory, gritty desire, and love’s holy ghost.”
—Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of Dandarians
In The Bride Minaret, Heather Derr-Smith explores the complex and difficult realities of our global world more comprehensively and comprehendingly than most American poets consider even attempting. Often paying close attention to those displaced and/or disconnected from the society around them–Arabs in Europe, Americans in the Middle East, Mennonites in Iowa, Balkan refugees, Roma orphans, Palestinians, and, at the heart of the book, a mother now separated from her former, childless self–these poems ultimately argue that dislocation is itself a kind of location, just as living forever in one place can end up dislocating oneself from the realities of our time.
The Bride Minaret is a book of emotional, literary, and cultural substance. As Mandelson wrote of Auden: the poems bear witness to the close connection between intelligence and love. The same can be said for Derr-Smith, whose work is global, with settings in Iraq, British Columbia, Algiers, Paris, Sarajevo, Bosnia, Cairo, the West Bank, and various U.S. locations. Her poems are intercultural, expansive while still grounded in the evocative complexities of motherhood, childhood, and faith. The Bride Minaret is a wonderfully intense collection.