Heather Derr-Smith

Heather Derr-Smith (Poetry) |West De Moines, IA

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Heather Derr-Smith is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has published three books of poems, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, Editor’s Choice Award, 2005), The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, Editor’s Choice Award, 2008), and Tongue Screw (Spark Wheel Press, 2016). Her fourth collection, Thrust, won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize at Persea Books and will be published in 2017. Derr-Smith has taught Creative Writing at Iowa State University in the Creative Writing and the Environment MFA program and was a visiting poet at International University of Sarajevo and American University, Tuzla, Bosnia. She is an NEA and Iowa Arts Council grant recipient and her work has appeared in Fence, Pleiades, Phoebe, diode, and others. Derr-Smith holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


Tongue Screw (Spark Wheel Press, 2016). Poetry.
The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008). Poetry.
Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005). Poetry.

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.
—Wayne Miller

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.
—Denise Duhamel

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