Heathen/Heather Derr-Smith was born in Dallas, Texas in 1971. S(he) spent most of (he)r childhood in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Derr-Smith earned a B.A. in Art History at the University of Virginia, where she also took poetry workshops with Charles Wright, Rita Dove, and Greg Orr. Heather went on to earn an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has published three 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).
Derr-Smith is Sufi & genderqueer and her work deals with trauma, both personal and geopolitical. Derr-Smith leads poetry workshops in conflict zones and post-conflict zones with survivors of violence, war, and the international migration/refugee crisis. She 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.