Heathen (Heather Derr-Smith) was born in Dallas, Texas in 1971. They spent most of their childhood in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Heathen earned a B.A. in Art History at the University of Virginia, where they also took poetry workshops with Charles Wright, Rita Dove, and Greg Orr. Heathen went on to earn an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has published four books of poems, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005), The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008) and Tongue Screw (Sparkwheel Press, 2016). Their fourth collection, Thrust won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize at Persea Books (2017).
Heathen’s work deals with trauma, both personal and geopolitical. They are founder and director of Cuvaj se/Take Care a nonprofit supporting writers in conflict zones and post-conflict recovery zones. Heathen leads poetry workshops with survivors of violence, war, and the international migration/refugee crisis. They has worked in refugee camps and with IDP’s in Syria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Eastern Ukraine as well as advocacy for gun-violence survivors and refugees/migrants in the United States, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, and Czech Republic.