Heather Derr-Smith


Tongue Screw

Available now at Amazon, Barnes & NobleIndieBound




Spark Wheel Press is delighted to announce the publication of Tongue Screw, Heather Derr-Smith’s important third collection. At times tender, at times scathing, Tongue Screw explores themes of female sexuality and agency, of personal connection, of love, and of desire sometimes gone wrong and violent.







A wagon of Mennonite girls passes by on the dirt road,
calico cape-dresses and Jacki-O sunglasses.

Adagio of trout in the stream,
abracadabra of wind in the willows over the water

and the sky like a battlefield,
the aerobatics and ballistics of birds.

All of it so beautiful,
like bones we might reassemble and redeem
from the damned,
quiver the vertebrae into place,
snap the atlas in its lock

and the world will rest in Sabbath, at last.

I wanted to be loved, shut up in the ark
like something worth saving, didn’t you? Didn’t you?

Blessed art thou
            by whose word all things come into being.


Praise for Tongue Screw

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 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