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Heid E. Erdrich

Heid E. Erdrich is a poet, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She was born in 1963 in Breckenridge, Minnesota, grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain. She received a BA from Dartmouth College, two MA degrees from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and a PhD from the Union Institute.

Erdrich is the author of numerous collections, including Little Big Bully (PenguinEditions, 2020), Verb Animate (Tinderbox Editions, 2020), and Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media (Michigan State University Press, 2017). She is also the editor of New Poets of Native Nations (Graywolf Press, 2018) and coeditor of Sister Nations: Native American Women Writers on Community (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002). 

Of her work, Dorianne Laux writes, “Heid E. Erdrich’s poems ferry us back and forth between what fuels us and what makes us human.”

Erdrich directs Wiigwaas Press, an Ojibwe language publisher. She has received two Minnesota Book Awards, as well as fellowships and awards from the National Poetry Series, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Bush Foundation, Loft Literary Center, First People’s Fund, and others. She teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program of Augsburg University and is the 2019 Distinguished Visiting Professor in Liberal Arts at University of Minnesota Morris. Erdrich is the guest editor for Poem-a-Day in November 2020.

Selected Bibliography


Little Big Bully (PenguinEditions, 2020)
Verb Animate (Tinderbox Editions, 2020).
Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media (Michigan State University Press, 2017)
Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2012)
National Monuments (Michigan State University Press, 2008)
The Mother’s Tongue (Salt Publishing, 2005)
Fishing for Myth (New Rivers Press, 1997)


Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013)

By This Poet


Peace Path

This path our people walked
one hundred two hundred              endless years
since the tall grass opened for us
and we breathed the incense that sun on prairie
                                                             offers to sky

Peace offering with each breath
each footstep           out of woods
to grasslands plotted with history
removal   remediation                     restoration

Peace flag of fringed prairie orchid
green glow within white froth
calling a moth who nightly
seeks the now-rare scent                 invisible to us

invisible history of this place
where our great-grandfather         a boy
beside two priests and 900 warriors
gaze intent in an 1870 photo         
                                                             his garments white as orchids

Peace flag                                           white banner with red cross
crowned with thorns                       held by a boy              
at the elbow of a priest   
beside Ojibwe warriors                   beside Dakota warriors

Peace offered after smoke and dance
and Ojibwe gifts of elaborate beaded garments
thrown back in refusal  
by Dakota Warriors                         torn with grief  
                                                             since their brother’s murder

This is the path our people ran
through white flags of prairie plants
Ojibwe calling Dakota back
to sign one last and unbroken treaty

Peace offering with each breath
each footstep                out of woods
to grasslands plotted with history
removal   remediation                     restoration

Two Dakota    held up as great men
humbled themselves
to an offer of peace
before a long walk south

before our people entered the trail
walking west and north
                                                           where you walk now
where we seek the source

the now-rare scent
invisible as history
history the tall grass opens for us
                                                            Breathe the incense of sun on prairie
                                                            Offer peace to the sky


Red Language

If I heard the words you once used
in our wild place rough with scrub roses
in sand—if your words came back
gray and kind as mild winter
believe me I’d still understand
offer my own red language
my tongue to your tongue
so we recall what we once said
that made us live
                        made us choose to live

Dear Demeter—Dear Earth (where Hades is the non-custodial parent)

First     in the dark world of a crying child 
he will think you ruined his offspring

He’ll say “milk spoilt” and “mama’s boy”

Soon enough     he will hate you and hold hostage 
all the love he can wring from
a small     terrified     being 

Then     when the shining child smiles
and the damned underworld is seen
dank and relentless    for what it is
he will see that you invented fire

He will see you kindled     with your body
an illuminated being         a soul devoted
a bright likeness of the father     

He will love you    He will bless you

He will try to         make you His